Research Spotlight

The databases often return hundreds of medical studies for a single wellness approach. This section summarizes a sampling of five studies – providing just a taste of the available research. These Spotlights were not selected because they are the most favorable or the most recent, but to provide you an introduction to the more extensive research you’ll uncover searching the four databases found in the “Research” section of this site.

  • Yoga Breathing & Relaxation Lowers Blood Pressure as Much as Aerobic Exercise
    A 2019 meta-analysis (49 studies) in Mayo Clinic Proceedings indicates that yoga practice that emphasizes mental relaxation and breathing techniques can have as much of a positive impact on high blood pressure as aerobic exercise: It results in blood pressure reductions as large as 11/6 mmHg, equal to or exceeding those reported for aerobic exercise training. When yoga didn’t emphasize breathing techniques and mental relaxation, the blood pressure reductions were only 6/3 mmHg.
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  • Yoga Works as Well as Physical Therapy for Back Pain
    A 2017 randomized trial from Boston University concluded that 12 weeks of yoga worked as well as 12 weeks of physical therapy in relieving lower back pain (for adults with moderate, persistent pain). For both groups, about half reduced their pain, disability and drug use – but people seemed like yoga better: the yoga-doers were less likely to drop out of the study. 
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  • Yoga Shows Significant Impact on Depression – But Over Time
    A 2017 study from Brown University, etc. analyzed the impact of weekly hatha yoga versus health education classes on people with severe depression taking antidepressants. Findings: while the yoga group didn’t see significant benefit at 10 weeks, they did at three and six months – when more than half of depression sufferers doing yoga saw their symptoms improve by over 50%. 
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  • Yoga + Meditation Routine Could Fight Off Age-Related Mental Decline
    A small UCLA study (2016) found that a weekly regime of yoga and meditation could forestall age-related mental decline. They tested older adults with early memory issues: one group did a well-established brain-training program (with classroom time and mental exercises), while the other did Kundalini yoga and Kirtan Kriya meditation (involving repeating a mantra and repetitive hand movements). Cognitive and brain-scanning tests showed all performed better on thinking tests, but the yoga+ meditation group has significantly better mood improvement, visuospatial memory and more communication between parts of the brain that control attention and focus. Yoga and meditation topped the benefits of 12 weeks of brain training for improving thinking skills. 
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  • 12 Minutes of Daily Yoga Reversed Bone Loss from Osteoporosis in Older People
    A 2016 study from Columbia University researchers, that tracked older people from 2005-2015 (80%-plus who were already diagnosed with osteoporosis or its precursor) analyzed (via X-rays) what 12 minutes of daily or near-daily yoga (12 assigned poses) would do over those ten years. The result: a reversal of bone loss, and improved bone density of the spine and femur. 
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  • Review Finds Yoga As Heart-Healthy As Aerobic Exercise
    Researchers at Harvard University performed a 2014 meta-review of 37 randomized controlled trials (involving 2,768 people) to identify yoga’s effects on cardiovascular disease compared to aerobic exercise. Those who did yoga showed significant improvements in a range of heart disease and diabetes risk factors, including systolic and diastolic blood pressure, “bad” cholesterol. Heart rates dropped significantly, while good cholesterol rose, and weight loss averaged more than pounds. These results were comparable to the aerobic exercise test groups. Researchers cautioned that analyzed trials included various types of yoga practiced for different amounts of time. 
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  • Yoga May Favorably Affect CVD Sufferers
    A rigorous 2014 Cochrane review of 11 clinical trials (800 participants) assessed the effectiveness of any type of yoga for adults and for those at high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The results showed yoga has favorable effects on diastolic blood pressure, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides (a blood lipid), with uncertain effects on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Cochrane cautioned that the results should be considered exploratory, with more research needed: each of the 11 trials was small and of shorter duration. 
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  • Meta-Review Finds Yoga Can Significantly Reduce Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
    In 2014, the Family Physicians Inquiries Network separately analyzed three systematic reviews of studies (spanning 2,000+ participants) on yoga’s effect on depression, anxiety and stress. The doctors found that across multiple RCTs, using varied yoga interventions and diverse study populations, yoga typically improved overall symptom scores for anxiety and depression by about 40%, both by itself and as an adjunctive treatment. 
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  • Yoga May Improve Risk Indices for People with Type 2 Diabetes
    A University of Virginia systematic review of 25 clinical trials concluded that yoga may improve risk indices for patients with type 2 diabetes, including: glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, lipid profiles, blood pressure, oxidative stress, coagulation profiles and pulmonary function. Further, yoga may hold promise for preventing cardiovascular complications within this population. 
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