Yoga has served humanity for thousands of years, and it keeps evolving. It is estimated that over 300 million people practice it worldwide.
I am interested in how yoga can genuinely nourish people, not the performance of certain poses, or pushing anyone to extremes.
In my own life, yoga has brought about major transformation. Not on its own: I had to combinine it with talk therapy, better working conditions, and improved nutrition. I also take more rest.
Over the years, the people who I teach have reported that regular practice helps them to feel stronger and calmer.
I believe that yoga will, at the very least, help you to feel comfier in your own skin. In a world of social media addiction and obsession with outer beauty, it must also be acknowldedged that yoga is also used by people to sell all sorts of fake promises. To claim that the practice is a ‘cure-all’ for health is a lie. Beyond my opinion, what does the research actually tell us? Read on…
Tens of thousands of robust, clincial trials and scientific papers about yoga were published from 1961-2020. I read hundreds of them when I went to college as a mature student and focused on the Sociology of Health during MA studies.
So, what do we know for sure?
- Yoga is proven to enhance bone, heart, and brain health.
- It can also calm the mind temporarily. For example, after 12 weeks of yoga most participants in various trials reported less symptoms of depression.
Does this mean that yoga cures depression and anxiety?
No. The root cause of each person’s illness must be taken into account.
KEEP IT REAL
The practice is deeply personal. Some folks apply yoga for exercise, others take it as an opportunity for a quiet, spiritual interlude in their busy day.
People tell me that their stress often melts away towards the end of class when we take time for relaxation.
Constant stress is a major cause of disease. We live in a time when burnout (emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion) is on the rise. I consider stress management to be the greatest gift that yoga can give us.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.
By the way, in all of the research that I studied, ‘stress relief‘ was mentioned in every one of them. People of all sizes, ages, and fitness levels felt stress relief after yoga asana (mindful movement) and pranayama (breathing exercises).
Yoga has to be felt. Not everything in life can be measured and neatly packaged. Still, scientific data is a good point of reference, particulary for vulnerable people.
Kathryn Crowley is a writer and creative. She practices and teaches yoga in Listowel, Kerry, Ireland.