Of course, it’s a stress-buster, but it also helps with anxiety, insomnia, depression, back pain and other ills, specialists say.

Chances are that you’ve heard great things about yoga. It can relax you. It can get you fit – just look at the bodies of a few celebrities who sing yoga’s praises. And, more and more, yoga is purported to be able to cure various medical conditions.

But is yoga the panacea that such a variety of trust it to be?

Yes and no, say the specialists. Though yoga certainly can’t cure all that ails you, it does offer significant advantages.

“Yoga is the best for flexibility, for strength, and for posture and balance,” said Dr. Rachel Rohde, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and an orthopedic surgeon for the Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak, Mich. “Yoga can help with a lot of musculoskeletal issues and pain, but I wouldn’t say it cures any orthopedic condition,” she said.

Most practitioners would tell you that yoga isn’t just about building muscle or strength.

“One of the Problems in this country is that individuals think of yoga only as exercise and try to do the most physically hard poses possible,” clarified Dr. Ruby Roy, a chronic disease physician at LaRabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago who’s also a certified yoga instructor. “That may or may not help you, but it additionally could hurt you,” she noted.

“The correct yoga can help you,” Roy said. “One of the basic purposes of a yoga practice is relaxation. Your heart rate and your blood pressure should be lower when you complete a class, and you should never be short of breath. Whatever kind of yoga relaxes you and does not feel like exercise is a decent choice. What truly matters is, are you in your body or are you going into a state of mindfulness? You need to be in the pose and aware of your breaths.”

Roy said she uses many of the principles of yoga, particularly the breathing aspects, to help children sleep, reduce anxiety, help with post-traumatic stress disorder, for asthma, autism and as support and pain management during procedures. “I may or may not call it yoga. I may say, ‘Let’s do some exercises to relax you for sleep,'” she said.

Bess Abrahams, a yoga advisor with the Integrative Medicine and Palliative Care Team at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City, also uses yoga to help kids who are in the hospital for cancer treatment and different genuine conditions.

“Physically, yoga helps to strengthen the muscles that have been weakened from a lack of development, and the stretching in yoga helps with muscular tightness,” she said. “It also helps with discomfort from lying in bed or discomfort from a procedure.”

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