Benefits of Yoga. Beyond anecdotal evidence.
Updated: Feb 8
Increased range of motion
Higher sense of gratitude
And so many more...
You have likely heard of these benefits before. Not surprisingly, EMD UK, the national governing body for group exercise, reported in 2018 that Yoga is THE most popular group exercise class in terms of participation and demand. Participation in yoga classes is on a steady staggering increase globally with over 300 million people doing yoga more or less regularly. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of people in the US doing Yoga rose by 50%. I joined a yoga community on Facebook a year ago, I was amongst the first one thousand members of the community – today, the community has 17,748 members.
So, the question is, what makes yoga so popular? Why are so many people drawn to yoga, and many stick with it? Let’s explore the above anecdotal benefits a little bit more (I am a scientist at heart, give me fluff and I'll scoff, show me evidence, and I'll cheer).
More and more people are reporting suffering from stress and burn-out resulting in physical and psychological pathologies. Our daily lives are characterised by an attitude of never stopping, not at work, and not at home. It’s a rat race. Even people that have a fitness regime as part of their routine have it as part of their “rat race routine”, they run from home to work to sports to work to home. It’s relentless. People are suffering, so much so, the WHO calls stress the health epidemic of the 21st century. Statistics and industry reports show that activities that help people step away from stresses and stressors are rising in popularity. One of these activities is yoga, which explains some of the rapid growth over the last decade. I wanted to find out a little bit more about the latest evidence based research around yoga and went on a little exploration of scientific literature. I limited my search to research published on PubMed Central, an archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature and narrowed it to articles published in the last 12 months.
The first article I read stated that the duration of yoga practised in months was positively-correlated with mental wellbeing and different aspects of quality of life. There was a negative correlation with the perception of illness suggesting that the illness was perceived to be less severe. In patients with chronic illness, yoga improved mental wellbeing, aspects of quality of life, and resulted in a positive perception of illness (Telles S. et al: Mental Wellbeing, Quality of Life, and Perception of Chronic Illness in Yoga-Experienced Compared with Yoga-Naïve Patients. Med Sci Monit Basic Res.2019).
Another study suggests that a routine yoga practice could positively impact how a practitioner relates to theirselves and to others, both on a day-to-day basis, and with accumulated practice.
(Kishida M. et al: The Daily Influences of Yoga on Relational Outcomes Off of the Mat. Int J Yoga. 2019).
And yet another piece of research shows subtle evidence that for people such as cancer survivors with treatment related sensory and motor deficits, impaired postural control, and fall risk yoga and meditation could have positive therapeutic effects due to significant improvement flexibility, balance, and mobility outcomes (Galantino ML et al: Impact of Somatic Yoga and Meditation on Fall Risk, Function, and Quality of Life for Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy Syndrome in Cancer Survivors. Integr Cancer Ther. 2019).
Some may think that something so gentle, so calm, so peaceful can hardly have any impact at all on our physical and mental well-being. A growing body of scientifically researched and evidence-based studies show that there is huge potential for everybody (and every BODY) in yoga.
So why not try it. Find out why millions upon millions of people globally step on the mat every day. After all, you cannot knock it until you have tried it.
(Unwind Yoga Studio is located in Cookham, Maidenhead, in Berkshire)