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Asana female yogi

Yoga as exercise is a modern exercise practice influenced by hatha yoga. It involves holding stretches as a kind of low-impact physical exercise, and is often used for therapeutic purposes.[1] Yoga in this sense often occurs in a class and may involve meditation, imagery, breath work and music.[2][3]

Background and overview[edit]

Yoga has roots in India. The foundational text for yoga is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Yoga came to the attention of the western public in the mid 19th century along with other topics of Hindu philosophy. The first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of yoga to a western audience was Swami Vivekananda, who toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s.[4][5]

A group of people practicing yoga

Nearly all types of hatha yoga practices include asana, pranayama and savasana.[6] The physical asanas of hatha yoga have a tradition that goes back to at least the 15th century, but they were not widely practiced in India prior to the early 20th century.

A hatha "yoga boom" occurred in the 1980s, as unconnected to a religious denomination.[4] Since then, hatha yoga has been used as a supplementary exercise practice.[7]

The more classical approaches of hatha yoga, such as iyengar yoga, move at a more deliberate pace, emphasize proper alignment and execution and hold asanas for a longer time. They aim to gradually improve flexibility, balance, and strength. Other approaches, such as Ashtanga or power yoga, shift between asanas quickly and energetically. Contemporary approaches to yoga invite students to become their own authority in yoga practice by offering principle-based approaches to yoga that can be applied to any form.

Research activity[edit]

Much of the research on hatha yoga has been in the form of preliminary studies or clinical trials of low methodological quality, including small sample sizes, inadequate blinding, lack of randomization, and high risk of bias.[8][9] Hatha yoga does not have specific and standardization regarding its practice. A study suggested for creation of supported practices that could be distributed and applied for use in clinical practice.[10]

Mental health conditions[edit]

Yoga is a core component of the Mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Drawing from recent research on the mental and physical benefits of practicing yoga, positive psychologists have begun to look deeper into the possibilities of utilizing yoga to improve life for people even in the absence of disease.[10]

A 2010 literature review of the research on the use of hatha yoga for treating depression said that preliminary research suggested that it may be effective in the management of depression, but "although the results from these trials are encouraging, they should be viewed as very preliminary because the trials, as a group, suffered from substantial methodological limitations."[11]

A 2015 systematic review on the effect of yoga on mood and the brain concluded that "yoga is associated with biological changes in blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol or cytokine levels."[12] The same review also points to a lack of research in this field and recommends more methodological rigor be applied to future clinical trials to solidify these conclusions.

There is some evidence that exercise programs may help people with dementia perform their daily activities.[13] There has been no found benefit to treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.[8] There is some evidence supporting yoga as an alternative treatment for insomnia, however it is not of good quality and it is not clear whether yoga works any better than general relaxation.[14]

Physical health conditions[edit]

There is evidence that hatha yoga may be effective in the management of chronic, but not acute, low back pain.[15] Only weak evidence exists to support the use of hatha yoga as a complementary therapy for helping people with rheumatic diseases, and little is known of the safety of such use.[16]

Although some evidence exists to suggest yoga might help people with high blood pressure, overall this evidence is too weak for any recommendation to be made, and little is known of the safety implications of such an approach.[17] There is no evidence of benefit in treatment of epilepsy or menopause-related symptoms.[18][19] Practice of yoga has no effect on the underlying mechanisms of cancer.[20]


A hand-standing yoga pose

Although relatively safe, yoga is not risk free. Sensible precautions can usefully be taken – for example beginners should avoid advanced moves, yoga should not be combined with psychoactive drug use, and competitive yoga should be avoided.[21] A small percentage of yoga practitioners each year suffer physical injuries analogous to sports injuries.[22] The practice of yoga has been cited as a cause of hyperextension or rotation of the neck, which may be a precipitating factor in cervical artery dissection.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Syman, Stefanie (2010). The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America. Macmillan. pp. 268–273. 
  2. ^ Feuerstein, Georg (2006). ""Yogic Meditation"". In Jonathan Shear. The Experience of Meditation. St. Paul, Minnesota: Paragon House. p. 90. While not every branch or school of yoga includes meditation in its technical repertoire, most do. 
  3. ^ Editors, of Yoga Journal (2010). "Which Yoga is Right for you?". Yoga Journal: 80–85. 
  4. ^ a b Shaw, Eric. 35 mOMents, Yoga Journal, 2010-09.
  5. ^ Goldberg, Philip (2010). American Veda—How Indian Spirituality Changed the West. New York: Crown/Random House. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-385-52134-5. 
  6. ^ Forbes Bo. "Yoga Therapy in Practice: Using Integrative Yoga Therapeutics in the Treatment of Comorbid Anxiety and Depression". International Journal of Yoga. 2008: 87. 
  7. ^ Barnes, P.; Powell-Griner, E.; McFann, K.; Nahin, R. CDC Advance Data Report #343. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults: United States, 2002
  8. ^ a b Krisanaprakornkit, T.; Ngamjarus, C.; Witoonchart, C.; Piyavhatkul, N. (2010). "Meditation therapies for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (6): CD006507. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD006507.pub2. PMID 20556767. 
  9. ^ Uebelacker, L. A.; Epstein-Lubow, G.; Gaudiano, B. A.; Tremont, G.; Battle, C. L.; Miller, I. W. (2010). "Hatha yoga for depression: critical review of the evidence for efficacy, plausible mechanisms of action, and directions for future research". Journal of Psychiatric Practice. 16 (1): 22–33. doi:10.1097/01.pra.0000367775.88388.96. PMID 20098228. 
  10. ^ a b Salmon, Paul; Lush, Elizabeth; Jablonski, Megan; Sephton, Sandra E. (February 2009). "Yoga and Mindfulness: Clinical Aspects of an Ancient Mind/Body". Cognitive and Behavioral Practice. 16 (1): 59–72. doi:10.1016/j.cbpra.2008.07.002. 
  11. ^ Uebelacker LA, Epstein-Lubow G, Gaudiano BA, Tremont G, Battle CL, Miller IW (January 2010). "Hatha yoga for depression: critical review of the evidence for efficacy, plausible mechanisms of action, and directions for future research". J Psychiatr Pract. 16 (1): 22–33. doi:10.1097/01.pra.0000367775.88388.96. PMID 20098228. 
  12. ^ Pascoe, Michaela C.; Bauer, Isabelle E. (1 September 2015). "A systematic review of randomised control trials on the effects of yoga on stress measures and mood". Journal of Psychiatric Research. 68: 270–282. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2015.07.013. ISSN 1879-1379. PMID 26228429. 
  13. ^ Forbes, Dorothy; Forbes, Scott C.; Blake, Catherine M.; Thiessen, Emily J.; Forbes, Sean (15 April 2015). "Exercise programs for people with dementia". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4): CD006489. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD006489.pub4. ISSN 1469-493X. PMID 25874613. 
  14. ^ Taylor DJ, Grieser EA, Tatum JI (2010). "Other Nonpharmacological Treatments of Insomnia". In Sateia MJ, Buysse D. Insomnia: Diagnosis and Treatment. CRC Press. p. 291. ISBN 9781420080803. 
  15. ^ [old info]Chou R, Huffman LH (October 2007). "Nonpharmacologic therapies for acute and chronic low back pain: a review of the evidence for an American Pain Society/American College of Physicians clinical practice guideline". Ann. Intern. Med. 147 (7): 492–504. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-147-7-200710020-00007. PMID 17909210. 
  16. ^ Cramer H, Lauche R, Langhorst J, Dobos G (November 2013). "Yoga for rheumatic diseases: a systematic review". Rheumatology (Oxford). 52 (11): 2025–30. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/ket264. PMID 23934220. 
  17. ^ Wang J, Xiong X, Liu W (2013). "Yoga for essential hypertension: a systematic review". PLoS ONE. 8 (10): e76357. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076357. PMC 3790704Freely accessible. PMID 24124549. 
  18. ^ Panebianco, Mariangela; Sridharan, Kalpana; Ramaratnam, Sridharan (2 May 2015). "Yoga for epilepsy". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (5): CD001524. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001524.pub2. ISSN 1469-493X. PMID 25934967. 
  19. ^ Lee, M. S.; Kim, J. I.; Ha, J. Y.; Boddy, K.; Ernst, E. (2009). "Yoga for menopausal symptoms: a systematic review". Menopause. 16 (3): 602–608. doi:10.1097/gme.0b013e31818ffe39. PMID 19169169. 
  20. ^ "Yoga". American Cancer Society. 1 November 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  21. ^ Cramer H, Krucoff C, Dobos G (2013). "Adverse events associated with yoga: a systematic review of published case reports and case series". PLoS ONE. 8 (10): e75515. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075515. PMC 3797727Freely accessible. PMID 24146758. 
  22. ^ Penman S, Cohen M, Stevens P, Jackson S (July 2012). "Yoga in Australia: Results of a national survey". Int J Yoga. 5 (2): 92–101. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.98217. PMC 3410203Freely accessible. PMID 22869991. 
  23. ^ Caso V, Paciaroni M, Bogousslavsky J (2005). "Environmental factors and cervical artery dissection". Frontiers of Neurology and Neuroscience. 20: 44–53. doi:10.1159/000088134. PMID 17290110. 


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