We are living in a scientifically advanced world where people insists on producing proofs and evidence to believe something. Amidst all such demands, “Yoga” stands out since people follow it without bothering about the evidence. Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. A large number of people believes that Yoga can help them meditate and cure their illness. There are even some Guru’s who attracts the attention of people by doing some highly risky postures in Yoga. But apart from using it as a form of meditation, does yoga have the ability to cure diseases? Let us go through some scientific facts behind the practice of Yoga.
Is yoga as a treatment proven by science?
Yoga is a form of alternative “Treatment” which comes under AYUSH. The Wikipedia definition for alternative medicine will give you a chuckle if you believe only in facts. The definition is as follows. “Alternative medicine, fringe medicine, or pseudo medicine is the use and promotion of practices which are disproven, unproven, impossible to prove or excessively harmful in relation to their effect in the attempt to achieve the healing effects of medicine”. If it is unproven, then how can someone validate it as a medicine? It can be used to improve the lifestyle though. Many people in the world follow forms like yoga for meditation. So what is the science of yoga? Well, the science of yoga can not only reveal some secrets but also shed light on mysteries as William Broad explains in his book “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards”.
Broad’s book opposed many claims that people believed yoga offers.
- Yoga postures that bend the neck at extreme angles, like a cobra, wheel, shoulder stand, and Halasana (plow), can damage the vertebral arteries, reducing blood flow to the brain and causing strokes.
- Yoga injuries are more common than you might think, and aren’t well acknowledged by the yoga community.
- Yoga slows the metabolism, which goes against the claims of many practitioners (and their advertising agencies) that doing yoga speeds up your metabolism and therefore helps you lose weight. This isn’t to say that yoga won’t help you get a great body or improve your body image. It just won’t do it by speeding up your metabolism.
- Yoga doesn’t increase cardiovascular or aerobic fitness (much).
Apart from all these above-mentioned facts, most of the people believed that yoga improves asthma. But there is NO substantial evidence to show that yoga improves asthma. In 2011, a review of studies was performed to see if results showed that yoga improves asthma, but there was not enough evidence to draw any conclusions. Also, there was a claim that yoga helps to relieve arthritis. But in that case, too, the result remained inconclusive. People used to believe that Yoga is all the cardio you need to stay fit. But yoga doesn’t even meet minimum standards for aerobic exercise. If all these claims are scientifically invalid, what actually is true?
What is the use of yoga?
Instead of using it as a form that can deliver faster results, Yoga can be practiced to relieve mental stress. Since it is a form of meditation, yoga may improve mood, increase vitality and reduce inflammation. Yoga might make you more flexible. Even though it is not a kind of aerobics, some postures in yoga may improve your flexibility over time. With deep breathing exercises, yoga may strengthen your immune system. Also, in his book, William Broad lists out that the benefits of yoga are many, which include alleviating stress, lifting mood, improving sleep quality, pain relief, building strong bones, and reducing depression, stress and anxiety.
But yoga is not yet proved as a stand-alone curative treatment. In a recent review, a team of researchers in the United States and India conducted a systematic examination of the scientific literature to assess the benefits of yoga for depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, sleep complaints, as well as cognitive and eating disorders. Of a total of 124 studies in which yoga was used as therapy for the disorders listed above, only 16 studies, or 12.9%, were considered to be of sufficient quality to be considered in the final evaluation. Even though yoga may offer help in cases of mild depression, the effectiveness of yoga for chronic symptoms or pervasive depressive disorders is not known. This means that yoga might be able to reduce the intensity of the psychological issues but couldn’t completely cure it either.
Note: This is the second part of a 5-part series on “AYUSH”. Keep reading for more information on AYUSH.