The new Evidence Informed Yoga Book is close to being released!
Here is what the evidence suggests…
Improved Flexibility and Balance
Yoga improves flexibility and balance to optimize performance through the use of specific poses. Maintaining flexibility as we get older in one of the major factors that can lower your physiologic age, keeping you younger, longer.
- A recent study looked at the effects of 10 weeks of yoga on male college athletes. Result: yoga significantly increased several measures of flexibility and balance, compared to the control group.
- A study of elderly participants who did yoga vs. calisthenics (body weight exercise), showed after one year, total flexibility of the yoga group increased by nearly 4x that of the calisthenics group.
This improved balance and flexibility; it may also reduce the risk of falls leading to further injury and improve athletic performance in certain activities. Practicing even 10 minutes of yoga a day can enhance performance by increasing flexibility and balance.
Specific poses in yoga can increase strength and build muscle.
- Dr. Bhutkar MD, had 79 adults and performed sun salutations, 6 days a week for 24 weeks. Result: “significant increase in upper body strength, endurance and weight loss.5 Larger studies also show that a 12-week practice led to improvements in endurance, strength and flexibility.
Yoga can improve strength and endurance, especially when used in combination with a regular exercise routine.
Decrease Stress & Anxiety
Multiple studies show yoga can decrease stress, anxiety and the secretion of cortisol (the bodies primary stress hormone).
- In one study, 10 weeks of yoga helped reduce stress and anxiety, improve quality of life and mental health.
- Another study showed after 3 months of yoga, women who perceived themselves emotionally distressed had significantly lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression.
- A study of PTSD diagnosed women who did yoga once a week for 10 weeks had decreased symptoms of PTSD and 52% of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD!
Lower Inflammation & Improve Heart Health
Inflammation is a normal body response, but chronic inflammation leads to pro-inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
- A recent study divided 218 participants into two groups: those who practiced yoga regularly and those who didn’t. Both groups then performed moderate and strenuous exercises to induce stress. Result: individuals who practiced yoga had lower levels of inflammatory markers than those who did not.
- Another study showed 12 weeks of yoga reduced inflammatory markers in breast cancer survivors. People who practice regular yoga generally have lower blood pressure and lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Research suggests yoga may help protect against diseases caused by chronic inflammation and cardiovascular diseases.
Improved Sleep & Quality of Life
Oken et al., compared 6 months of yoga, walking and a control group. Results: “Practicing yoga significantly improved quality of life, as well as mood and fatigue, compared to the other groups”.
- Yoga may help improve sleep quality, enhance spiritual well-being, improve social function and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with cancer.
- Another study evaluating sleep quality compared yoga, a herbal preparation and a control group. The yoga group fell asleep faster, slept longer and felt more well-rested in the morning than the other groups.
- Yoga may also decrease sleep disturbances, improve sleep quality and duration and reduce the need for sleep medications.
Yoga has been shown to increase the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.
Reduce Chronic Pain
One study compared individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome who received a wrist splint or did yoga for eight weeks. Yoga was found to be more effective in reducing pain and improving grip strength than wrist splinting.
- Kolasinski et al, showed that yoga could help decrease pain and improve physical function in participants with osteoarthritis of the knees. Increasing evidence shows that yoga could be a useful adjunct therapy to help reduce migraine frequency.
- A study divided patients with migraines into either a yoga therapy or self-care group for three months. Practicing yoga led to reductions in headache intensity, frequency and pain compared to the self-care group.
- Another study showed doing yoga resulted in a greater decrease in headache frequency and intensity than conventional care alone.
Yoga may help reduce chronic pain in conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis and migraines.
Healthy Eating & Weight Loss
Food quality and intake is main criteria for controlling weight. Mindful eating is a concept that encourages being present in the moment while eating. It’s about paying attention to the taste, smell and texture of your food and noticing any thoughts, feelings or sensations you experience while eating.
- Mindful eating has been shown to promote healthy eating habits that help control blood sugar, increase weight loss and treat disordered eating behaviors.
Yoga places a similar emphasis on mindfulness and this similarity can be used to encourage healthy eating behaviors.
- Dr. Carei et al, incorporated yoga into an outpatient eating disorder treatment program finding yoga helped reduce both eating disorder symptoms and preoccupation with food.
- Another study showed yoga was found to cause a decrease in episodes of binge eating, an increase in physical activity and a small decrease in weight.
Practicing mindfulness through yoga can aid in the development of healthy eating habits and potentially weight loss.
The Bottom Line
The evidence has confirmed the many mental and physical benefits of yoga; incorporating movement therapies into your routine can help enhance your health, increase strength and flexibility and reduce symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. Even just a few times per week may be enough to make a noticeable difference.