New York Times Examines Yoga as Physical, Emotional Therapy for People Living With HIV/AIDS, Other Chronic Diseases

The New York Times on Thursday examined how people with chronic diseases -- including HIV/AIDS, cancer, osteoporosis and Crohn's disease -- increasingly are choosing yoga classes to help reduce discomfort caused by medication side effects and pain and provide them with emotional support to manage their illnesses. Physicians often recommend yoga to their patients "for the stress-relieving benefits of both exercise and meditation," but students say that because they often are exercising with people who have similar illnesses, the sessions provide them with emotional encouragement, particularly if the sessions include support group meetings held after the yoga class. Some physicians believe it is dangerous to give patients "the impression that a practice like yoga could somehow cure their illness," according to the Times. Robert Baratz, president of the National Council Against Health Fraud, said, "It gives some people peace of mind or makes them feel better, ... [b]ut there's no medical or plausible mechanism by which it affects the disease process." Advocates of yoga therapy agree that the practice is not a cure or treatment for chronic illnesses, but they say that by increasing patients' flexibility and heart rate and relaxing their minds, yoga patients can better handle their symptoms and reduce the anxiety they feel. James Murphy -- president of the Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New York, who teaches a free HIV/AIDS class at the association -- said, "We're trying to restore the body and give it juice. ... Even if they've been lying in bed for three weeks with pneumonia, they can start with some poses that can open up their chest" (Lee, New York Times, 12/15).

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