Health And Wellness Benefits Of Yoga

December 12, 2023
Health And Wellness Benefits Of Yoga

Research in 2020 shows many health and wellness benefits of yoga

Research Study At A Glance

The Research Question Asked

What were the benefits of yoga on health and wellness issues in research studies published in 2020?

Type of Study

Review study

Methods

The researchers included published articles in their review paper if the studies covered a clinical trial that used yoga asana, pranayama, or meditation as their intervention, and if a research team published a paper in 2020. In total, they included 46 articles that met their criteria.

Results

Studies published in 2020 reported benefits of yoga on multiple aspects of mental health, neuropsychology, cardiovascular health, as well as other health issues.

Conclusion

Yoga has a broad array of positive effects on a wide variety of chronic conditions.

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Background

Many types of chronic disorders do not have fully effective treatments within Western medicine. Metabolic disorders, autoimmune dysfunction, heart disease, as well as mental health issues like anxiety and depression often have only partially effective treatments in Western medicine. For that reason, medical professionals are interested in the effects of alternative and complementary therapies like yoga.

Previous yoga research has been applied to a wide range of disorders. That research reported benefits of yoga on issues such as immune system function, cardiovascular system function, muscle strength and flexibility, and mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and stress. Due to the nature of conducting research with human subjects, sample sizes and other factors often limit the conclusions we can make from individual studies on the effects of yoga. However, when we combine many smaller studies we can see trends that we might not see otherwise. The research paper we highlight in this article summarizes all the research done on yoga and health and wellness in 2020.

Research question

What were the benefits of yoga on health and wellness issues in research studies published in 2020?

Research methods

To find studies to include in their review, researchers searched the PubMed database for all studies published in 2020 with any of the following keywords: yoga, meditation, asana, pranayama, yogic breathing, or dhyana. They then evaluated all the studies that turned up in their search. They included published articles in their review if they covered a clinical trial that used yoga asana, pranayama, or meditation as their intervention, and if the paper was published in 2020. In total, they found 46 articles that met their criteria and included those papers in their review.

Results

Mental health

Eight studies were published in 2020 that examined the effects of yoga on aspects of mental health. And, multiple studies found benefits of yoga for mental health issues. Those included improvements in anxiety, depression, stress, and sleep quality after yoga treatments. Other mental health-related studies showed an association between yoga and positive body image, improved PMS symptoms, and reduced cigarette cravings in those trying to quit smoking.

Neuropsychology

Six studies were published in 2020 that explored the association between yoga and neuropsychological functioning. Studies reported various positive effects associated with yoga, including improved visual working memory, improvements in balance, gait, and joint flexion in Parkinson’s patients, and increased GABA levels in depression patients.

Cardiovascular health

There were eight studies published in 2020 that examined associations between yoga practice and cardiovascular health. The studies found a number of positive associations with yoga. Some of those included: increased walking distance, increased anaerobic threshold, positive effects on cardiac rehabilitation and respiratory function, and increased blood pressure and heart rate variability of hypertension patients.

Other health issues

Additional studies conducted in 2020 evaluated the benefits of yoga on various other health issues. Those varied from examining yoga’s effects on creativity to cancer, HIV, type-2 diabetes, restless leg syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and others. Some positive effects of yoga included reduced blood pressure, body mass index, and markers of oxidative stress in type-2 diabetes patients. Other positive effects included increased attention, memory, divergent thinking, and physical health aspects like increased muscle strength, flexibility, and balance, as well as positive effects on symptoms of restless leg syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and metabolic syndrome.

Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?

Those of us who are long-term practitioners of yoga already know that we feel better when we do our practice. Anecdotally you, or your students if you’re a teacher, probably notice many positive health-related impacts on your life that you attribute to your yoga practice. Research review papers like the one we highlight in this article tell us more specifically how yoga practice impacts our health. One of the most interesting findings from this review was the benefits of yoga on so many different systems in our body. It shows that yoga really does affect the whole person.

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Conclusion

Yoga research has covered a wide variety of health-related disorders in the past couple of decades. The review paper we highlight here summarizes only studies published in 2020. Among those studies, yoga positively affected a diverse group of chronic health disorders.

Reference citation

Dutta, A., M. Aruchunan, A. Mukherjee, K.G. Metri, K. Ghosh, and I. Basu-Ray. 2022. A comprehensive review of yoga research in 2020. The Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine. 28(2):114-123.