The majority of yoga practitioners will attest to the health benefits that it can bring. Engaging in the physical and mental aspects of the practice can lead to a lower heart rate, increased flexibility and strength, among other advantages that accompany the simple enjoyment of practice.
Yoga has been practiced in times dating back to ancient India. By its sustained popularity alone, it is evident that it has had some profound affect on the health and livelihood of people for quite some time. Recent studies have demonstrated that yoga can alleviate the symptoms of mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
An especially interesting case of healing through yoga practice lies in a small population of incarcerated individuals from Washington. In the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, a study was recently published highlighting the profound affect of meditation and yoga on convicts who had addictions to drugs, including crack cocaine, and/or alcohol and marijuana. Prison workers had found that typical drug recovery programs were majorly ineffective. Most addicts tended to resume their drug habits after leaving jail, often perpetuating the incarceration cycle.
Noting that the current system did not work well, prison officials and a group from the University of Washington instead decided to implement a yoga and meditation program for the recovering addicts. The program encouraged mindfulness and harnessing one's ability to focus. Physical exercise was also part of the yoga practice, adding to the newly-found healthy lifestyle.
After the program, the incarcerated population reported decreased negative psychiatric symptoms and enhanced "psychosocial" interactions. As well, after being released from the prison, the program participants significantly maintained the drug-free habits.