The Science Behind Yoga

We are all told that yoga is amazing for the skeletal system, cardiovascular system, nervous system and all of our internal organs, not to mention our mental health and wellbeing. And indeed many of us do feel and reap these benefits of practice throughout our lifetime. But, is there actually much modern, scientific evidence for all of this, and how does yoga benefit us in relation to other forms of exercise?

In a really interesting article in which she takes an objective standpoint, yogi Julia Belluz discusses the main findings from over fifty scientific studies on yoga she has read, carried out since 1975. Here are some of the conclusions she draws:

Firstly, Belluz is clear to highlight the limits of the scientific studies we have on yoga. Much of the time, we simply don’t have enough evidence yet, because research studies haven’t been carried out for long enough. For example, researchers haven’t tracked yogis over a period of twenty or more years to see how their health compares to those who do not practice.

In addition, yoga means lots of different things and there are many different styles of practice; from ashtanga to hatha to kundalini to aerial yoga, and elements within yoga; including pranayama (breath work), asanas (postures), meditation, chanting and more. So, it is hard to find the exact source of the health benefits. Is it just one part of the practice, or one style that helps, or is a combination of all of the above?

However, from the studies that have been carried out, Belluz can confirm a few things. Firstly yoga, alongside tai chi and meditation, is effective at reducing harmful inflammation in the body, by reducing inflammation-based blood markers. In turn, this can reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors, help people to manage high blood pressure levels and help improve the quality of life for those living with diabetes.

Belluz writes how scientific studies have shown that yoga brings a heightened “body awareness”, which is really important. It means that people are more likely to recognise how they are feeling, notice if and when they are stressed, in pain or tired, and apply changes to adapt accordingly, leading to a healthier body and mind.

In addition, scientific studies carried out over the years have proven that yoga reduces lower back pain in both the short and long term. Belluz says that the research that has been done on yoga and lower back pain is some of the best yoga research we have!

She comes to the conclusion that simply, “if you like yoga, keep doing it. There’s no evidence that it’s particularly harmful, and it can lead to a range of health benefits…” Sounds pretty good to us!

Scientific research studies on the benefits of yoga practice are gaining more and more impetus, so in the coming years we will continue to grow in knowledge and understanding of what yoga does for our bodies and minds, all the way from the cellular, microscopic level to how we look on the surface.

Here is the link to the full article on Vox. We’d love to know what you think about this, so do get in touch! Share this post, comment on Facebook, tweet us or direct message us on Instagram @feelwellbeing

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