The rising fitness trend has motivated people to seek ways to boost their health physically, emotionally and mentally. The good news is, there are is no shortage of options that people can explore in order to achieve their health goals. But when eing presented with numerous options, it is normal for patients to feel confused, question their true benefits, and of course to ask their healthcare professional for good recommendations.

So amidst all the crash dieting, and killer exercise regimes out there,  if your patients ask you for a recommendation, you actually can’t really go wrong with yoga, and here's why.

Yoga: History, Principles and Popular Culture

Originating in India, yoga is a practice or method that unites the physical, mental and spiritual states. Despite being around for centuries, it was only in the 20th century when it made its way into Western culture and practices.

Principles of Yoga

The practice of yoga is multidisciplinary and intertwines 10 principles or sutras composed by Patañjali in order to achieve a condition of inner peace and good health. These principles include:

1. Non-violence (Ahimsa)
2. Truthfulness (Satya)
3. Righteousness (Asteya)
4. Wisdom (Brahmacharia)
5. Simplicity (Aparigraha)
6. Worship of the spiritual goal (Ishvara-Pranidhana)
7. Sacrificing the ego (Shaucha)
8. Self-discipline (Tapas)
9. Reading (Svadhyaya)
10. Contentment (Santosha)

Types of Yoga

There are several types of yoga such as:

1. Hatha – for beginners
2. Vinyasa – for weight loss
3. Iyengar – for spinal complaints
4. Bikram – for flexibility
5. Kundalini – for spirituality
6. Ashtanga – for advanced individuals

Evidence Based Medicine: Yoga as Alternative Medicine

In order to label something as evidence-based, it requires substantial clinical data to back it up. Several studies such as randomized controlled trials have been conducted to understand the science behind the practice of yoga. Studies have looked at several aspects of yoga and the benefits it provides to the practice of medicine. The exact mechanism behind yoga that produces positive outcomes has not yet been established. Nevertheless, the benefits of yoga cannot be discounted.

Benefits of Yoga

Overall yoga has made a significant impact on general health and wellbeing. A literature review by Uebelacker et. al. (2010) looked at Hatha yoga, for the treatment of anxiety and depression. Hatha's simple poses and focus on meditation has shown to decrease symptoms of depression and improve control over anxiety. Treatment of depression in particular has been difficult, as standard treatments have shown to not be beneficial for everyone. Yoga is an alternate and also an augmented form of treatment to regular depression alleviation strategies, due to resultant credible bodily mechanisms that positively affect depression.

Along with the aforementioned mental ailments, yoga has been studied to help patients with schizophrenia. A randomized controlled trial by Duraiswamy et. al. (2007) examined the effectiveness of yoga as an add-on treatment to psychotherapeutic measures for patients with schizophrenia. Moderately ill schizophrenic patients were divided into two groups, where one group underwent physical exercise therapy, and the other yoga therapy. After four months, the yoga therapy group showed a significant decrease in psychopathology as compared to the control group.

The various positions or asanas, targets different muscle groups, which has helped individuals with chronic low back pain. Iyengar yoga focuses on spinal ailments most in the lumbar area. Williams et. al. (2009) studied individuals with chronic low back pain and made use of this form of yoga. The participants who took part in the study were followed up with 6 months after the intervention. Results revealed an improvement in functionality, a decrease in intensity of pain experienced and lower feelings of depression as compared to the control group which solely used standard pain medication treatment. An important trend to note from this study was that participants who made use of Iyengar yoga along with pain medications showed a significant reduction in the use of these drugs.

There are several other claimed benefits that yoga has. However, further clinical evidence is required to definitively prove their efficacy. MIMS

1. Uebelacker et. al., "Hatha yoga for depression: critical review of the evidence for efficacy, plausible mechanisms of action, and directions for future research”, J Psychiatr Pract, 2010, 16 (1): 22–33
2. Duraiswamy "Yoga therapy as an add-on treatment in the management of patients with schizophrenia – a randomized controlled trial.”, Acta Psychiatr Scand, 2007,116:226–32
3. Williams et. al., "Evaluation of the effectiveness and efficacy of Iyengar yoga therapy on chronic low back pain.”, Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2009 Sep 1;34(19):2066-76. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181b315cc

Read More:
1. ‘Rage Yoga’ for the more aggressive yogi
2. Can yoga benefit patients with asthma?
3. Simple tips to keep migraine at bay