Yoga is used by over 13 million in the US (1) and it seems to be increasing in popularity.
At The Ohio State University, and many other universities nationally, yoga is one of the most sought after health and wellness activities among students.
What is yoga?
Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy and is a meditative movement practices used for health purposes (1).
What are common features of Yoga?
While there are many styles of yoga, common features include improvement of well-being and mind body balance by use of (2-4):
• controlled breathing (pranayama),
• physical postures (asanas),
• meditative techniques (dhyana).
How does yoga help you feel better?
When it comes to brain/mind impact, a review of 25 randomized control studies (5) suggest yoga might help:
• Reduce some depression and anxiety symptoms
• Decrease blood pressure
• Reduces chemicals of inflammation (cytokines)
• Reduces stress hormone (cortisol)
• Better regulate sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system
• Better regular hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system (which impact various hormones, including those related to stress and inflammation)
• Change in how our brain functions after yoga
What are the harms of yoga?
In this review, there were limited side effects reported.
Should I check with my doctor?
As with any physical exercise, it may be wise to check with your physician before starting a yoga program.
What are some limitations of many studies related to yoga?
In this review of 25 studies of yoga (5), limitations include:
• Small sample size
• No follow up
• Specific yoga interventions are not well described, making study replication and interpretation difficult.
• Methodological variability in how different studies were conducted.
What do the results mean?
Yoga may be helpful for some students despite the limited studies on the health benefits yoga and despite the various limitations of many of the studies on yoga.
Any precautions before considering Yoga?
National Center for Complementary and Integrative health (1), suggests the following precautions:
• Do not use yoga to replace conventional medical care or to postpone seeing a health care provider about pain or any other medical condition.
• If you have a medical condition, talk to your health care provider before starting yoga.
• Ask a trusted source (such as your health care provider or a nearby hospital) to recommend a yoga practitioner. Find out about the training and experience of any practitioner you are considering. To learn more, see Selecting a Complementary Medicine Practitioner.
• Everyone’s body is different, and yoga postures should be modified based on individual abilities. Carefully selecting an instructor who is experienced with and attentive to your needs is an important step toward helping you practice yoga safely. Ask about the physical demands of the type of yoga in which you are interested and inform your yoga instructor about any medical issues you have.
• Carefully think about the type of yoga you are interested in. For example, hot yoga (such as Bikram yoga) may involve standing and moving in humid environments with temperatures as high as 105°F. Because such settings may be physically stressful, people who practice hot yoga should take certain precautions. These include drinking water before, during, and after a hot yoga practice and wearing suitable clothing. People with conditions that may be affected by excessive heat, such as heart disease, lung disease, and a prior history of heatstroke may want to avoid this form of yoga. Women who are pregnant may want to check with their health care providers before starting hot yoga.
• Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
What are some resources for yoga on campus?
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.
2. Farmer, J. Yoga body: the origins of modern posture practice. Rev. Am. Hist. 40 (1), 145e158. 2012.
3. Pflueger, L.W., 2011. Yoga body: the origins of modern posture practice. Relig. Stud.Rev. 37 (3), 235e235. 2011.
4. Travis, F., Pearson, C., 2000. Pure consciousness: distinct phenomenological and physiological correlates of “consciousness itself”. Int. J. Neurosci. 100 (1e4), 77e89.
5. Pascoe, MC, Bauer IE. A systematic review of randomised control trials on the effects of yoga on stress measures and mood. Journal of Psychiatric Research 68 (2015) 270-282.