Long-term Yoga Practice Positively Affects Physical Health

May 16, 2023
Long-term Yoga Practice Positively Affects Physical Health

Yoga may positively affect cardiopulmonary function as well as flexibility

Research Study At A Glance

The Research Question Asked

How does long-term yoga practice affect physical health?

Type of Study

Clinical trial with a pre-/post- design

Study Participants (Sample)

Sample size: 50 total participants

  • 61% female; 39% male
  • Mean age 39; Age ranged from 29-49
  • Non-smokers
  • No cardiorespiratory illness


Researchers assessed changes in cardiopulmonary function, flexibility, body composition, and hemoglobin levels after participants completed a 6-day per week yoga protocol for 1 year.


Several aspects of cardiopulmonary function as well as flexibility improved after yoga treatment when compared to before treatment.


Long-term yoga practice positively affected physical health and specifically improved aspects of pulmonary function and flexibility.

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Contemporary yoga studios, teachers, and practitioners have primarily focused on yoga’s effects on physical health and wellness. Many research studies have supported the anecdotal experiences of practitioners regarding yoga’s positive effects on physical health. However, yoga research studies have tended to focus almost solely on short-term interventions. These short-term yoga treatments have frequently had positive effects on a wide variety of physical health aspects, from increased strength and flexibility to improved immune systems and cognitive responses. But, these studies on short-term yoga treatments don’t tell us how long-term yoga practice affects our physical health. The research study that we summarize in this article addresses that question.

Research question

How does long-term yoga practice affect physical health?

Research methods

In this study, 50 participants completed a 1-year yoga program. Participants ranged in age from 29 to 49, with a mean age of 39. The practitioners in this program were 61% female (39% male). All were non-smokers and had no previous history of cardiorespiratory illness.

The yoga treatment consisted of a broad program of asana, pranayama, meditation, chanting, and prayer. Asanas specifically included poses in standing, seated, prone and supine positions. Practitioners attended a 2-hour practical class with an instructor once per week as well as a 2-hour philosophy class. Additionally, all practitioners were required to complete at least 30 minutes to 1 hour of yoga self-practice at home five times per week. Any participants who acknowledged that they didn’t comply with the home yoga practice requirements were not included in the data analysis.

Researchers measured physical health parameters for all participants before they began the long-term yoga program and again after they completed the program. Researchers measured aspects of pulmonary function, VO2 max, flexibility, body composition, and hemoglobin levels before and after the 1-year yoga program. Specifically, pulmonary function tests included percentage of predicted forced vital capacity (%FVC), forced expiration volume at the end of the first second (%FEV1), FEV1/FVC ratio, peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), and forced expiratory flow 25%-75%. Body composition was assessed via metabolic age, body fat, visceral fat, resting metabolism, and body mass index.

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  • Several measures of pulmonary function improved after yoga participation, specifically %FVC, %FEV1, and PEFR
  • Flexibility increased in study participants after yoga treatment
  • VO2 max increased after yoga participation
  • Body mass compensation was similar before and after yoga treatment
  • Hemoglobin levels were similar before and after yoga participation

Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?

The effects of long-term yoga practice positively affect our physical health. As with many practices that support good physical health, like eating well and getting enough rest, changes in flexibility and pulmonary function take time to be seen and felt. It’s important, as practitioners and teachers, to acknowledge this when speaking about the effects of yoga practice. Additionally, it’s important for the research community to go in the direction of more studies on the long-term effect of yoga, as the results may be different than those of short-term interventions. It makes sense that many of yoga’s effects would take time to be measurable. And, therefore research on the long-term effects could potentially tell us more about what those effects truly are.


Long-term yoga practice positively affected aspects of physical health. Previous research has shown that yoga increases flexibility, so that result was not surprising. However, this study also demonstrated that yoga improved aspects of pulmonary function. Regular yoga practice may support our pulmonary system in functioning at its best.

Reference citation

Gohel, M., A. Phatak, U. Kharod, B. Pandya, B. Prajapati and U. Shah. 2021. Effect of long-term regular Yoga on physical health of Yoga practitioners. Indian Journal of Community Medicine. 46(3):508-510.