image Yoga for better health- what does the scientific evidence say

Anand Viswanathan

Yoga Day 2015
Yoga for all: New Delhi, 21-06-2015. Imgae courtesy ‘The Indian Express’ http://goo.gl/L7Azeu

For a brief while last month, yoga floored India, literally. The first International Yoga day was observed on 21 June 2015 with fervor across the country and at key places around the world. Yoga is a generic term used to denote a system of exercises that professes body postures and physical techniques to facilitate better general health.(1) There are many sub-types of yoga. While the state’s push for engagement in such physical activities is commendable, the actual health benefits of performing yoga need to be ascertained given the health and commercial interests involved. A Cochrane Review, the highest standard in healthcare evidence that systematically collates all available research, tried to find the answers.

Yoga for prevention of cardiovascular disease

Cochrane Review (2), published online: May 2014

External link to the published review

Question asked?

Does yoga prevent cardiovascular disease (heart disease that could lead to heart attack)?

Population represented in the studies

Adults from the USA and India, those who had no known cardiovascular disease. About half of the 800 participants had risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure.

Findings

  • 11 studies (randomized controlled trials) included in the data analysis.
  • None of them measured relevant direct outcomes (heart attacks, deaths, hospitalization)
  • All studies measured only indirect indices (blood pressures, cholesterol levels), over short durations of up to a few months.

What did the authors conclude?

Given the limited evidence, we are unable to determine the effects of yoga in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

What does this mean? Should I continue to do yoga?

This means that there is no reliable cumulative scientific evidence till date to come to any conclusion about the effects of yoga in preventing heart attack. Yet, any physical activity is a healthier option compared to sedentary life. The choice to be active or not is yours…

Yoga evidence nutshell

References

  1. Hatha yoga [Internet]. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2015 [cited 2015 Jul 3]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hatha_yoga&oldid=668507387
  2. Hartley L, Dyakova M, Holmes J, Clarke A, Lee MS, Ernst E, et al. Yoga for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews [Internet]. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2014 [cited 2015 Jun 29]. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD010072.pub2/abstract

Anand Viswanathan, a rehabilitation physician, currently works in a research position at Cochrane South Asia, Christian Medical College, Vellore- India. He is a firm believer in ‘shared decision making’  and ‘patient-centered clinical research’  being key to achieving optimal population healthcare. He could be reached at @anandtmc 

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