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Yoga

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.

  • 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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  • Yoga Shown to Boost Brain Chemical That Improves Mood & Lowers Anxiety
    A small Boston University School of Medicine (US) randomized controlled trial revealed that 12 weeks of yoga resulted in significant increases in a critical brain chemical (thalamic GABA levels) that improved mood and lowered anxiety—much moreso than for the metabolically-matched walking intervention group.
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