If you read my previous blog, I revealed that Pilates is no better than regular exercise and a lot more expensive. No doubt this article sent a shiver down the spine of all you yummy Yogis out there, knowing that Yoga was probably going to be the next to be named and well, shamed. The time has come, folks, Yoga has been named, but has it been shamed? Let’s have a look at the scientific evidence surrounding Yoga in several different groups.
Low back pain:
Two separate review studies found strong evidence that yoga improves pain, level of disability and quality of life in the short term and moderate evidence that it has a long term effect on these measures (1, 2). In another review study, when compared to other interventions for low back pain, Yoga was found to be more effective, although the studies analysed were of a poor quality (3). So all in all, Yoga seems to be pretty darn effective for low back pain. Breathe a sigh of relief, yogis.
High blood pressure:
Several review studies have been conducted on the topic, with the general consensus that Yoga appears to improve blood pressure, but there is not yet a sufficient number of high quality studies to make firm conclusions (4, 5). Watch this space, but for now it’s worth trying. Two from two, yogi bears.
A review paper analysing studies comparing regular exercise to yoga, found yoga to be equal or superior to exercise in various different health measures. The only health measure for which general exercise was superior was physical fitness (6). Although, in my opinion an intense Yoga class could potentially overcome this slight pitfall.
So, how does it work:
Yoga appears to decrease cortisol (stress hormone) and increases serotonin (the happy hormone), which likely results from the relaxation and spiritual component of Yoga (6). Additionally, Yoga exerts the standard physical effects to the body that you would expect with normal exercise, however, these are probably lessened with gentler forms of Yoga.
Is it healthful:
Low back pain and general health: Ab-so-lutely! Fairly strong evidence that it works for both.
Our verdict: Highly healthful!
High blood pressure: Not enough convincing evidence to determine whether yoga is super effective at reducing blood pressure. However, there are some positive results thus far and it is worth trying as an adjunct to other mainstream therapies.
Our verdict: Slightly healthful.
I hope this has been healthful.