Alternate Title

  • Hatha yoga

Related Terms

  • Asana, ashtanga yoga, Ayurvedic medicine, bandhas, bhakti yoga, Bhastika, Bhastrika, Bhavan yoga, Bikram yoga, chanting, cleansing techniques, cyclic meditation, dharana (concentration), dhyana, dru yoga, gentle yoga, guided imagery, hatha yoga, headstands, hot yoga, Iyengar yoga, integral yoga, jalandara bandha, jivamukti yoga, kapalabhati, kapalabhati breathing, karma yoga, kirtan, Kripalu yoga, kriya, kumbhaka, Kundalini yoga, Lamaze® breathing, mantra, meditation, mula bandha, nadi-shodhana pranayama, nadi suddhi, neti, niyama (healthy habit), nostril breathing, om, padmasana, patanjala yoga, patanjali, poses, postures, power yoga, pranayama, prathyahara (sense withdrawal), proprioceptive physical activity, raja yoga, relaxation, restorative yoga, Qi gong, Sahaja yoga, samadhi, savasana, shavasana, shoulder stand, Siddha medicine, Siddha Yugimuni, Siddhi, Silver Yoga Programme, sirsasana (headstand) yoga posture, Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY), sukhasana, sun salutation, surya anuloma viloma, suryanamaskar, sva-tantra, tai chi, The Yoga Sutras, therapeutic yoga, TM, Transcendental Meditation®, tum-mo (heat) yoga, uddiyana bandha, ujjayi, ujjayi and bhastrika combination, unloaded movement facilitation exercise, vegetarian diet, visualization, yama (moral behavior), yoga-mimansa, yoga nidra, Yoga of Awareness Program, yoga therapy, yogi, yogic breathing.
  • Not included in this review: Ayurveda, NIA, Siddha, Transcendental Meditation®.

Background

  • Yoga is an ancient system of relaxation, exercise, and healing with origins in Indian philosophy. Early descriptions of yoga are written in Sanskrit, the classical literary language of India. The first known work is “The Yoga Sutras,” written more than 2,000 years ago, although yoga may have been practiced up to 5,000 years ago. The initial concepts have been adapted over time through translation and scholarly interpretation, but the fundamental principles describing the practice of yoga in the quest of the soul remain largely intact.
  • Yoga has been described as “the union of mind, body, and spirit,” which addresses physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual dimensions towards an overall harmonious state of being. The philosophy of yoga is sometimes pictured as a tree with eight branches. These eight limbs are: pranayama (breathing exercises), asana (physical postures), yama (moral behavior), niyama (healthy habit), dharana (concentration), prathyahara (sense withdrawal), dhyana (contemplation), and samadhi (higher consciousness). There are several schools of yoga practice, such as hatha yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, and raja yoga. These schools vary in the proportions of the exercises of the eight limbs. However, they are all similar in working towards the goal of self-realization and control of mental, physiological, and psychological parameters through yogic experiences. In the United States and Europe, hatha yoga is commonly practiced, including pranayama and asanas.
  • Yoga is often practiced by healthy individuals with the aim to achieve relaxation, fitness, and a healthy lifestyle. Yoga has also been recommended and used for a variety of medical conditions. Yoga techniques can be learned in classes or through videotape instruction. Classes last from 30 to 90 minutes and are offered at various skill levels. There is no widely accepted credentialing for yoga instructors.

Evidence Table

    Disclaimer

    These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

    Asthma

    Multiple human studies report benefits of yoga (such as breathing exercises) when added to other treatments for mild-to-moderate asthma (such as standard drug therapy, diet, or massage).

    High blood pressure

    Several human studies support the use of yoga in the treatment of high blood pressure when practiced for up to one year. It is not clear if yoga is better than other forms of exercise for blood pressure control. Yoga practitioners sometimes recommend that patients with high blood pressure avoid certain positions, such as headstands or shoulder stands (inverted asanas), which may increase blood pressure.

    Altitude sickness

    Yoga uses controlled breathing patterns to increase breathing efficiency. More research is needed before a recommendation can be made.

    Anxiety

    Several human studies support the use of yoga therapy in the treatment of clinical anxiety disorders and in otherwise healthy individuals with anxiety. Additional well-designed studies are needed before a strong recommendation can be made.

    Arthritis

    There is promising early evidence that yoga therapy may help treat both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. More research is needed to confirm these results.

    Carpal tunnel syndrome

    There is preliminary evidence supporting the use of yoga therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome. Although this early research has been criticized for several reasons, yoga may be an effective means of alleviating carpal tunnel syndrome. Additional studies are needed for a definitive assessment.

    Depression

    Several human studies support the use of yoga for depression in both children and adults. Although this preliminary research is promising, better studies are needed.

    Heart disease

    Several human studies suggest that yoga is helpful in people with heart disease. However, it is not clear if yoga reduces the risk of heart attack or death or if yoga is better than any other form of exercise therapy or lifestyle/dietary change. Therefore, yoga may be a useful addition to standard therapies (such as medications for blood pressure or cholesterol) in people at risk for heart attacks, but further research is necessary before a strong recommendation can be made.

    Lung disorders

    Limited adult human study exists for the treatment of lung conditions such as bronchitis, fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion), or airway obstruction. Better-designed research is necessary before any firm recommendations can be made.

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder

    Several human studies support the use of yoga therapy in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Additional well-designed studies with clearly defined patient groups are needed before a strong recommendation can be made.

    Quality of life

    Yoga may be beneficial for improving the quality of life for patients with serious diseases as well as in healthy patients. Several studies in cancer patients report enhanced quality of life, lower sleep disturbance, decreased stress symptoms, and changes in cancer-related immune cells after patients received relaxation, meditation, and gentle yoga therapy. Higher quality studies are needed.

    Schizophrenia

    Several human studies support the use of yoga therapy in the treatment of schizophrenia. Additional well-designed studies with clearly defined patient groups are needed before a strong recommendation can be made.

    Seizure disorder (epilepsy)

    Several human studies report a reduction in the number of monthly seizures with the use of Sahaja yoga, when it is added to standard anti-seizure drug treatment or a yoga meditation protocol. This research is preliminary and better studies are necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.

    Substance abuse

    Preliminary research suggests that yoga may be beneficial when added to standard therapies for the treatment of heroin or alcohol abuse. Additional studies are needed before a strong recommendation can be made.

    Antioxidant

    Yoga may have antioxidant properties. More, higher quality evidence is needed to confirm these results.

    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

    There is limited study in humans of yoga in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made.

    Diabetes

    Several preliminary human studies suggest that daily yoga may improve control of blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes when it is added to standard drug therapy. It is not clear if yoga is better than any other form of exercise therapy. Better research is needed before a recommendation can be made.

    Eating disorders

    There is unclear evidence in this area.

    Fatigue

    Preliminary studies in humans report that yoga may improve fatigue in adults. However, better-designed studies are needed before any conclusion can be made.

    Headache

    Preliminary evidence suggests that yoga may effectively reduce the intensity and frequency of tension or migraine headaches and lessen the need for pain-relief medications. Better studies are needed before a recommendation can be made.

    Insomnia

    Preliminary research reports that yoga may benefit sleep efficiency, total sleep time, number of awakenings, and quality of sleep. Well-designed research is necessary before a firm recommendation can be made.

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

    Early evidence suggests that yoga may be beneficial in the management of IBS. Further research is needed to make a recommendation.

    Memory

    There is limited human study of yoga to improve memory. Most research focuses on memory in children. Better studies are needed before a recommendation can be made.

    Menopausal symptoms

    Early evidence showed mixed results regarding yoga’s effect on menopausal symptoms. Although early results are promising, more research is needed in this area.

    Mental retardation

    There is limited human study of yoga therapy in children with mental retardation. Better trials are needed to confirm these results and to evaluate the effects of yoga in mentally retarded adults.

    Multiple sclerosis (fatigue, cognitive function)

    There is limited study of yoga therapy in patients with multiple sclerosis. Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made.

    Muscle soreness

    There is limited study in humans of yoga for improving muscle soreness. Further research is needed before a recommendation can be made.

    Pain

    Preliminary research reports that yoga may improve chronic low back pain in humans. However, larger better-designed studies are needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.

    Performance enhancement

    Preliminary studies in humans report that yoga (mukh bhastrika) may improve human reaction time, arousal, information processing, running performance, and concentration. Further research is needed before a clear recommendation can be made.

    Posture (children)

    Preliminary human study suggests that yoga may improve physical posture. Better-designed studies are needed before a conclusion can be drawn.

    Pregnancy

    Early research suggests yoga during pregnancy is safe and may improve outcomes. Additional research is needed before a clear recommendation can be made. Pregnant women who wish to practice yoga should discuss this with their obstetrician or nurse-midwife.

    Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

    It is unclear whether yoga therapy may improve tinnitus. Although relaxation may theoretically benefit this condition, additional research is needed before a recommendation can be made.

    Slow (delayed) ejaculation

    There is early evidence to support the use of yoga in the treatment of delayed ejaculation in males. Larger well designed and controlled trials are needed to further assess the effects of yoga for sexual health.

    Stroke

    Preliminary study suggests possible benefits of a yoga-based exercise program on people who have had a stroke and have impaired health status and reduced level of activity. Although results seem promising, further well-designed research is needed to confirm these findings.

    Weight loss/obesity

    Preliminary research does not provide clear answers. Yoga in addition to healthy eating habits may reduce weight. Better studies are necessary to form conclusions about the potential benefits of yoga alone.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

    Disclaimer

    The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

Safety

    Disclaimer

    Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

Attribution

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration ().

Bibliography

    Disclaimer

    Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to . Selected references are listed below.

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    View Abstract
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