Science is casting doubt on the “union” part of yoga.
At least a little bit of science, albeit what may the largest study of its kind by a group that wouldn’t be looking to disprove yoga’s value: the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
The study went online on Monday. Here is a link to the abstract.
Two hundred twenty-eight adults with lower back pain took part in the study; some took yoga classes, some just stretching classes and a third group were basically handed a book and told to fend for themselves.
The key finding: there wasn’t a difference between the yoga and stretching groups in terms of pain reduction. Or, in the abstract’s parlance: “Yoga was not superior to conventional stretching exercises at any time point.”
What’s that mean? Well, according to this story in the Wall St. Journal, it means the study “didn’t find any evidence that yoga provided broader mental benefits.” Researchers had thought that some mental benefit — stress relief, relaxation — from yoga was part of what helped reduce back pain.
But if stretching did as well, then… it’s all physical.
The type of yoga used was viniyoga. Is that maybe our saving grace?
As I’m learning in “American Veda,” there’s been a long history of trying to discover the benefits from yoga scientifically. The Transcendental Meditation folks were maybe the most aggressive in this, but I think you’d have to be blind not to see it even with Ashtanga: Witness Guruji’s Ashtanga Yoga Institute, for starters.
Does this study provide any final proof that there isn’t a mental benefit to yoga? Obviously not. But it sure has the feel of something that could upset the asana apple cart.
Posted by Steve