Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Yoga poses for what ails you

By Elizabeth Cohen, Senior Medical Correspondent
Dr. Loren Fishman shows Dr. Carolyn LaFleur the camel pose to help get rid of her headaches.
Dr. Loren Fishman shows Dr. Carolyn LaFleur the camel pose to help get rid of her headaches.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Doctors say people often have a hard time believing yoga can produce effective changes
  • Yoga works by bringing down stress levels, which relaxes everything in your body
  • The practice can make a difference in ailments such as headaches or asthma
RELATED TOPICS

(CNN) -- When Dr. Carolyn LaFleur was in a car accident six years ago, she couldn't move her neck for a year and a half, she had terrible pain in her hip, and she would get headaches at her temples.

Frequent icing, physical therapy and massage therapy helped her neck and hip, but didn't do much for the pain in her head.

Then just last year LaFleur discovered yoga. While it didn't get rid of her headaches, it did make the pain much more manageable.

"Yoga has given me strength," says LaFleur, 66, an anesthesiologist who practices in Hudson, New York.

She has her yoga "prescribed" by Dr. Loren Fishman, a rehabilitative medicine specialist at Columbia University's New York-Presbyterian hospital in Manhattan.

"Yoga lowers your tension. It relaxes the basic tone of your muscle," he says. "And the minute you notice that yoga helps, it raises your confidence that you can help yourself. It gives you the feeling of 'I can do it.' "

Fishman and others have done studies showing yoga can help all sorts of medical ailments, from depression to sexual dysfunction to rotator cuff injuries.

"People often have a hard time believing they can get such powerful change from yoga, but they do," says Dr. Dean Ornish, who has studied the health benefits of yoga.

Ornish, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, says yoga works by bringing down stress levels, which relaxes everything in your body, including blood vessels.

"Your arteries begin to relax so there's more blood flow everywhere, so everything is better," says Ornish, president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute.

Here are 10 ailments where yoga can make a difference.

1. Headaches

Fishman suggested to LaFleur that she do the camel pose, the bridge pose and the wheel pose for headaches. He says these poses stretch the muscles in the front of the chest, which help control the head. The Yoga Journal has more information on yoga for headaches.

2. Asthma

Several studies, including one published in the "Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology," show yoga can help asthma sufferers. Livestrong and Women Fitness list poses that seem to help.

3. Sexual dysfunction in women

A study in the "Journal of Sexual Medicine" shows yoga improved women's desire, satisfaction and orgasms. Health magazine suggests a sequence of wide leg squat to lizard lunge to frog pose to improve a woman's sex life. Harvard Medical School also has suggestions (added) for yoga poses to enhance sexual function.

4. Sexual dysfunction in men

Doctors in India have successfully used yoga to treat men with premature ejaculation; there are more details in an article in the "Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy." Men's Health suggests certain poses to help men improve their sex lives, including something called "horndog pose."

5. Sleep problems

Researchers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found lymphoma patients who did yoga slept better than those who didn't. About.com's yoga guide suggests trying the happy baby pose or the goddess pose before you go to bed.

6. Menstrual pain

According to a study published in the "North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology," the cobra, cat and fish poses helped teens and young women with menstrual pain.

7. Rotator cuff injuries

Fishman published a study earlier this year showing a chair-assisted headstand can help people with rotator cuff tears. See Figure 2 for how to do it.

8. Osteoporosis

Fishman also published a study showing a regimen of 10 yoga poses helps build bone mineral density after menopause.

9. Pain sensitivity

According to the "Harvard Mental Health Letter," a study at the University of Utah showed people who practice yoga had a higher pain tolerance than those who didn't.

10. Depression and anxiety

A German study mentioned in the same Harvard publication showed that emotionally distressed women became less depressed and anxious after they took two 90-minute yoga classes a week for three months. This yoga journal article suggests camel pose, bridge pose and wheel pose.

Follow @ElizCohenCNN and @CNNHealth on Twitter.

CNN's Sabriya Rice and Lida Alikhani contributed to this story

 
Quick Job Search