International Yoga Day 2022: Here's The Science Behind Why Yoga Is Good For You
On World Yoga Day 2022, we look at the science of how Yoga helps different problems like anxiety, stress, and more.
21 June is International Yoga Day. But you already know that. So let's put aside the flood of Yoga day updates, yoga day news, yoga day videos, and yoga day healthcare tips you're probably drowning in.
Let's take a step back and examine yoga and its benefits and drawbacks with a cold, clinical, scientific eye. What is the science behind yoga? Is it an effective approach to weight loss, improved sleep, and better mental health? Or are yoga teachers and practitioners simply sharing baseless, unscientific claims?
Let's find out.
There's Yoga. Then there's Hot Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and a litany of other types of Yoga.
While they've got many names, all forms of Yoga usually come down to the same principles - precise, compound movements combined with deep breathing and meditation techniques.
Some forms of Yoga like Hatha Yoga are more suited for beginners while others like Ashtanga Yoga may take more time to work up to.
Yoga: Stress and Anxiety
A 2008 study showed that eight weeks of mindfulness yoga improved eight out of ten symptoms on the stress subscales. Subscales are different indicators used to measure the severity of a disease or disorder.
The study compared groups of people who practiced regular aerobic exercise with groups that practiced mind-body exercises.
Importantly, the improvements in stress indicators were seen in anxiety and depression, with sleep quality improving in most subjects.
While yoga does find its roots in Indian texts, the contemporary medical community has come to accept the scientific validity and benefits of yoga as a means to complement treatment, manage pain, and other symptoms of diseases.
While overall pain levels didn't vary much between the two groups, the study found that Yoga has potential mental health benefits, especially in tandem with conventional treatments.
Yoga and Parkinson's Disease
Mindfulness Yoga is an effective way to manage the physical symptoms of Parkinson's disease, according to this 2019 study.
The trial studied the effects of mindfulness yoga's effect on anxiety and depression in people with Parkinson's Disease, in comparison to groups that practiced conventional Stretching and Resistance Training Exercises.
The benchmarks for measuring effectiveness were improvements in psychological distress, physical health, spiritual well-being, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in patients with mild-to-moderate Parkinson's Disease.
The study found that Mindfulness Yoga managed and treated psychological distress much better than conventional SRTE.
Yoga was also found to be as effective as Stretching & Resistance Training Exercises (SRTE) for motor function and mobility. It also improved Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL) more than SRTE.
Additionally, Mindfulness Yoga provided the benefit of an improved psychospiritual outlook on life and hardships, which conventional SRTE did not.
Yoga and Depression
An analysis of over 23 studies came to the conclusion that yoga was found to be beneficial in some cases to ease symptoms of depression, but that more studies were needed.
While it doesn't outperform conventional treatment and medication, Yoga in tandem with professional mental health can be extremely beneficial, as part of a holistic approach to mental health care.
Yoga as an alternative and complementary form of therapy is often recommended by doctors, even for the mental symptoms of anxiety and stress that arise from dealing with chronic and terminal illnesses like cancer.
While yoga on its own can't treat cancer or depression, studies show that yoga can improve overall quality of life (QoL) of cancer patients and this could benefit many treatments, as a complementary form of therapy, including depression and even cancer.
Yoga and Cancer
A 2018 study recommends Yoga as an adjuvant to conventional cancer care stating that it fulfills a lot of spiritual needs that go unmet with conventional cancer treatment like radiotherapy and chemotherapy alone.
A 2020 study also states that adding yoga into cancer care tremendously benefits patients on multiple levels. The study reported consistent findings of improved distress and perceived stress markers in patients undergoing treatment.
It also pointed at improvements in other biomarkers like cortisol(the stress hormone) with most trials that were analyzed showing improved psychosocial outcomes in patients.
The study also showed that physiological markers like fatigue, sleep, and distress showed marked improvements in patients who underwent a yoga routine in addition to their conventional treatments.
Scientifically speaking, Yoga's benefits as a complementary form of therapy to other treatments needs more study. Most if not all reports about yoga's benefits as a form of treatment agree that the field needs more study.
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