Since the first texts about yoga were written in The Vedas over 5000 years ago, yoga has been endorsed as a tool for our emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. But how much do we know about the impact of yoga? And, can science prove what texts from thousands of years ago claim?
The positive impact of yoga was first written about over 5000 years ago.
Modern science backs up the claims in the ancient yogic texts.
Research proves that yoga reduces the harmful effects of stress.
You don't have to practice for hours every day to have a positive impact.
There are numerous benefits you can reap from regular yoga practice, and there are studies that demonstrate some of these very effectively.
The claims of yoga benefits have fascinated scientists and prompted much research into how yoga truly impacts the lives of those who practice it.
What does science say about the impact of yoga?
The positive impact of yoga is evident from studies exploring a range of topics, from spine mobility to stress reduction.
The research backing this up is plentiful. A study of 113 psychiatric patients showed that all participants reported a significant improvement in depression, anxiety, anger and fatigue symptoms.
A twelve-week study in Hong Kong showed that just three months of regular Hatha-style yoga considerably improved muscle density and cardiovascular performance.
Yoga could be a great practice if you want to de-stress and improve your fitness levels. The health benefits are clear to see. And the research proves you don't have to wait years to start seeing results.
How does yoga impact our ability to deal with stress?
Stress causes imbalance. It destabilizes us, causing significant problems in our outer and inner lives. It can even cause structural changes in the brain.
Yoga seeks to create balance. And scientific research shows that it does precisely that through studying what happens in the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS has two parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic branch is responsible for our 'fight or flight' response in the body. At the same time, the parasympathetic system governs activities whilst the body is resting, such as digestion.
Can yoga regulate our nervous system?
The two branches of our nervous system are complementary. They need to remain in balance for the body and mind to maintain a healthy state. However, in today's often stressful world, the sympathetic nervous system is overused, and many people are in a near-constant state of 'fight or flight'.
An overloaded sympathetic nervous system leads to an imbalance that can create anxiety, depression, hypervigilance and illness over time. Sensations and bodily reactions to internal and external stressors can begin to dominate our thoughts, leaving us in a state of dis-ease.
Studies have shown yoga to be an incredible way to restore the balance between the two branches of our nervous system. This restoration allows us to reduce stress and invite more calm into our lives, boosting overall health.
What does science say about yoga for back pain?
Canadian researchers found an improvement in lower back pain and increased mobility using a carefully considered combination of modified postures and meditation techniques coupled with breathing exercises.
The journal Pain Research and Management reported that weekly yoga classes are as effective at reducing lower back pain as physiotherapy involving stretching exercises. The study also noted that benefits lasted for several months after the classes ended.
If you suffer from back pain and have made sure that there is no serious underlying cause, then science proves that yoga could help you. Tell your instructor about any pain or health conditions so they can modify the postures accordingly.
The scientific impact of yoga on heart health
Our hearts beat in a continuous rhythm from development in the womb until our final breath. A heart will beat more than three billion times in an average lifetime. Keeping our hearts healthy is of paramount importance and often overlooked.
Focusing on our external body and emotions is easier because we can see and feel them. Most days, we barely pay attention to the most essential organ in our bodies. Ask yourself: 'How many times have I thought about my heart today?'.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the most common causes of chronic illness and death worldwide. Regular yoga practice is as effective at lowering risk factors for heart disease as conventional exercises like brisk walking. According to the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology study, yoga lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate, improving overall heart health.
Science proves the positive impact of yoga
Yoga has fascinated both scientists and practitioners for thousands of years. Modern technology and scientific approaches have allowed the benefits to be proven using randomized and controlled trials. They all come back with glowing reports of the positive impact of yoga.
Our physical bodies get stronger and more supple, our emotional landscape stabilizes, and our organ health is improved and maintained.
If you are looking for improvements in any of those areas, then yoga could be an incredible way to start your wellness journey. If you are already committed to practice, then be reassured that you are doing the right thing for your body, mind and the longevity of your life.
- Indian Journal of Clinical Anatomy and Physiology. Effect of yoga on sympathetic nervous system of human body.
- NIH. The impact of stress on body function: A review.
- NIH. Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition.
- APA PsycNET. The Effects of Yoga on Mood in Psychiatric Inpatients.
- Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation. Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss.
Show all references
- NIH. Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Hindawi. Yoga for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.
- European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. The effectiveness of yoga in modifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.