Let’s keep at it: More scientific evidence of yoga’s many benefits

This piece of scientific news has been making the rounds this weekend, although the article did come out a month ago in a European journal. (Link to it is here.) Here’s some of the scientific-sounding findings:

Yoga showed significant improvement of risk factors versus non-exercise controls for each of the primary outcomes: BMI (−0.77 kg/m2 (−1.09 to −0.44)), SBP (−5.21 mmHg (−8.01 to −2.42)), LDL–C (−12.14 mg/dl (−21.80 to −2.48)), and HDL-C (3.20 mg/dl (1.86 to 4.54)) (Figure 2). For the secondary outcomes, significant improvement was seen in all risk factors except FBG (−5.91 mg/dl (−16.32 to 4.50)) and HbA1c (−0.06% Hb (−0.43 to 0.31)) (online Supplementary Figure S2). Improvements reported in secondary outcomes include reductions of body weight (−2.35 kg (−4.33 to −0.37)), DBP (−4.98 mmHg (−7.17 to −2.80)), TC (−18.48 (−29.16 to −7.80), TG (−25.89 mg/dl (−36.19 to −15.60)), and heart rate (−5.27 beats/min (−9.55 to −1.00)) (online Supplementary Figure S2).

What’s that mean? Here’s a regular folk friendly description:

Results showed first that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those doing yoga than in those doing no exercise, and second, that yoga had an effect on these risks comparable to exercise.

 When compared to no exercise, yoga was associated with significant improvement in each of the primary outcome risk factors measured: body mass index was reduced by 0.77 kg/m2 (measured as a “mean difference”), systolic blood pressure reduced by 5.21 mm Hg, low-density (bad) lipoprotein cholesterol reduced by 12.14 mg/dl, and high-density (good) lipoprotein cholesterol increased by 3.20 mg/dl.

There were also significant changes seen in secondary endpoints. Body weight fell by 2.32 kg, diastolic blood pressure by 4.9 mm Hg, total cholesterol by 18.48 mg/dl, and heart rate by 5.27 beats/min. However, no improvements were found in parameters of diabetes (fasting blood glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin).

Risk factor improvements (in BMI, blood pressure, lipid levels) were significant when yoga was used in addition to medication. Among patients with existing coronary heart disease, yoga provided a statistically significant benefit in lowering LDL cholesterol when added to medication (statins and lipid-lowering drugs).
In comparisons with exercise itself, yoga was found to have comparable effects on risk factors as aerobic exercise.

A few other things I can discern from looking through the journal article:

  • The study didn’t find any evidence of much difference between yoga and aerobic exercise among healthy people — which counters some studies that suggest yoga is “too gentle.”
  • It does note it only used English-based studies, so that’s a limitation. And, in general, it didn’t find the studies it was studying to bee super well done. There could be improvements, in other words, to future studies.
  • The types of yoga studies varied a lot, so there’s no way to pinpoint if one style is better or if something in particular is best (in terms of the health being studied here).

But, overall, it looks like a good piece to add to the pro-yoga scientific literature.

Posted by Steve

Published by


Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s