Since pop-star Madonna announced around 2000 to practice Ashtanga yoga, yoga has become one of the most popular form of exercise or physical and spiritual movement forms in the past two decades. Countless yoga forms have conquered the market, from “classic” hatha yoga to dynamic, powerful forms, or yoga with goats or even beer yoga. But what does science say about this increasing trend?
Here we point out some of the numerous articles showing the benefits of yoga in multiple different patient cohorts.
Effects of yoga on mood, stress and anxiety
Here are highlighted some studies regarding mood, stress, and anxiety:
One study on “Effects of Yoga versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain Gaba Levels” compared two groups of patients over a 12-week period: either a group did 60 minutes of yoga three times per week, or 60 minutes of walking three times per week. The first group had better results and reported greater benefit in mood and anxiety compared to the walking exercise only group.
Another study published in February 2018 on “The Effect of Yoga on Stress, Anxiety, and Depression in Women,” found that there was 21.5, 26, and 28 percent improvement in depression, anxiety, and stress respectively after a period of 4 weeks of 60 to 70 minute hatha yoga practiced three times per week.
An article on the “Effects of Yoga on Negative Emotions in Patients with Breast Cancer: A meta-analysis of randomized control trials.” found improvements in anxiety, depression, distress, perceived stress, and emotional wellbeing in 21 different trials, comparing people who practised yoga to non-exercisers.
Cardiovascular diseases are often attributed, at least partly, to stress. So one might assume that yoga as shown above in relation to stress can be of benefit here. Indeed, the research shows some modest improvements: biomarkers that are used to calculate one’s risk of heart disease such as blood pressure, lipid levels, weight, and blood glucose, have been shown to be modestly improved with yoga.
A Cochrane database review looked at all conducted studies available on yoga and prevention of cardiovascular disease, but found a lack of high quality research: the investigations had too short durations or small sample sizes.
However, the analysis of the studies concluded that a yoga intervention decreased diastolic blood pressure by -2.9 mmHg, triglycerides by -0.27 mmol/l, and increased HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) by 0.08 mmol/l.
A short, but fairly large study was conducted in patients with Type 2 diabetes or who are pre-diabetic. A 10-day yoga lifestyle intervention was tested and fasting blood glucose (FBG) was recorded before the intervention at an average of 133.1mg/dL and after the yoga intervention the average FBG level was 121.19mg/dL—a drop of 10%.
In another meta-analysis performed by Paula Chu and Rinske A Gotnik, it was shown that yoga improved body mass index with a mean weight loss of 2.32 kg, a decrease in diastolic blood pressure by −4.98 mmHg, and an improvement in total cholesterol of −18.48 mg/dl. This study found these improvements among those who did yoga and exercised compared to those with an inactive lifestyle.
A study in Annals of Internal Medicine compared yoga classes vs. physical therapy vs. educational material for patients with chronic low back pain. One of the promising outcomes was that the patients who were in the yoga or physical therapy arm were 21% less likely to require pain medications than the education alone group.
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