The effect of yoga on the quality of one’s fitness has been evaluated in numerous studies. In general, yoga intervention has shown superior health benefits as compared to no intervention treatment or other various physical activities.
One unique difference between yoga and other physical activity programs is the dual practice that involves both mind and body. The practical effects of yoga rely on basic physiological processes such as breathing and promoting mental relaxation through body movements.
The effect that yoga can have on fitness and general well-being has been evaluated across multiple parameters: aerobic, anaerobic, quality of life, pain control, stress management, and cognitive performance. To evaluate yoga’s potential to improve different aspects of physical fitness, one must start by screening and reviewing several experimental studies.
In most cases, the intensity of yoga training does not cause a significant increase in heart rate: generally speaking, expending energy alone is insufficient to improve cardiovascular fitness. In a study done by Hagins, Moore, and Rundle, the effect of yoga intervention on cardiovascular fitness was likened to low-intensity treadmill training (3.2km). In a meta-analysis from 2016, researchers suggested that the energy expenditure during yoga training could be classified as a light intensity workout. When comparing aerobic exercise to yoga training, aerobic exercise groups showed significantly greater improvement in cardiovascular performance.
In a study done in 2015 among healthy adults, yoga and resistance training showed similar benefits in improving strength. In another study, yoga training was found to be more effective in improving grip strength and in relieving some of the signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome when compared with wrist splinting or no treatment. Overall, a yoga-based regime proved valuable in improving strength.
Balance and Postural Control
Yoga training emphasizes the practice of appropriate posture and poses to promote balance abilities. A study that included 118 adults found that yoga was an effective method to improve balance and mobility. In addition, a meta-analysis from 2016 showed improvements in balance in healthy older adults.
Experimental studies comparing yoga with control groups have shown increases in flexibility. Also, yoga was reported to increase flexibility in patients with common musculoskeletal problems. Lastly, various poses have been found to increase the range of motion and the flexibility of major joints.
Stress and Anxiety
Yoga is one of many therapeutic interventions that has proven effective for managing stress and anxiety. In a study comparing the effects of walking to yoga training, the researchers found that yoga was more effective than walking programs to reduce anxiety levels. In general, yoga classes offer a strategy to help health professionals reduce their work-related stress.
Yoga and other mindfulness practices have proven effective to downregulate inflammation biomarkers and different specific immune responses.
A meta-analysis from 2015 found that the practice of yoga was associated with moderate improvements in cognitive function. In another study, participants in the yoga group exhibited memory enhancement.
A 2012 meta-analysis that included 1000 participants showed that yoga was effective in relieving pain-associated disability in several different pain conditions including migraine, rheumatoid arthritis, and lower back pain.
Yoga is widely practiced during pregnancy. Several studies have shown that yoga can increase satisfaction with the childbirth experience and decrease the severity of prenatal and postpartum depression. Also, the practice of yoga during pregnancy has proven to strengthen the pelvic floor area.
A study that examined 360 yoga students and 156 yoga teachers reported that the primary reason for practicing yoga was the sense of the spiritual. The findings suggest that mental factors drive motivation to continue training.
Quality of Life
Several review studies have proposed that the practice of yoga significantly improves one’s quality of life.
Yoga is a practical training platform found to be effective in improving both physical and mental health. Interestingly, by offering a pain-free workout routine, yoga is considered a softer and more forgivable approach to training. As one builds cognitive and physical awareness, this combination of exercises for the mind and body can promote significant health benefits.