Yoga has been an inseparable part of the Indian way of living for thousands of years, there are many historic texts and manuscripts which suggest various yogic practices for optimum holistic living, which has been also reiterated by modern scientific research methods. Numerous studies have shown that yoga can improve several aspects of well-being, including stress management and mental/emotional health, as well as promoting healthy eating and physical activity habits.

In this article, we will explore, what modern science says about the health benefits of Yoga.

Yoga for Children:

Several studies have indicated that yoga is a safe and potentially effective treatment for children and adolescents who are experiencing emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral health challenges. These problems are very common among children in today’s day and age across the globe, especially after the covid pandemic there has been an exponential hype in mental health issues among children. Therefore, it is recommended that children are introduced to yoga during their early years.

Children benefit greatly from yoga by learning self-regulation, focusing on the task at hand, and handling problems peacefully. When regularly practiced, yoga also assists in improving balance, relieving tension, and increasing strength. Numerous studies have shown that school-based yoga programs benefit adolescents’ health.

Yoga for General Health for All Age Groups:

Since the early 1990s, yoga has received considerable research attention for its therapeutic potential in a number of modern epidemic diseases, such as depression, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In individual studies, yoga is found to have positive effects on these conditions, indicating it may be used as an adjunct to drug therapy or a nonpharmaceutical measure. However, these studies used only yoga asana, pranayama, and/or short periods of meditation as a therapeutic technique, while there are so many other aspects to yogic practices, some of them are now being researched under mind sciences and allied studies.

As a consequence of globalization and modernization, mental stress, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease are fast-spreading epidemics. Since the early 19th century especially when Yoga was introduced to the western world researchers have been investigating its therapeutic potential, according to a study, yoga reduced depression, anger, anxiety, and neurotic symptoms significantly in patients taking antidepressant medications who were in partial remission. The findings support yoga’s potential as a complementary treatment for depression. Results have been encouraging, particularly with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Obesity & Weight Loss:

It’s no secret that excess body fat and obesity are strong risk factors for diabetes, hypertension, and ischemic heart disease. Studies of yoga practice in people who were overweight or obese showed that practicing yoga led to a reduction in body mass index and waist to hip ratio. Researchers have shown in studies that yoga has the potential to treat obesity.

Yoga for Hypertension:

As per studies, the effects of regular yoga practice have been shown to control high blood pressure. Yoga, in conjunction with relaxation, biofeedback, transcendental meditation, and psychotherapy, has proven to have a convincing antihypertensive effect. Recent studies conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut indicate that practising yoga may help reduce blood pressure in adults with hypertension. Specifically, yoga practices that include breathing and relaxation exercises three times a week may be as effective as aerobic exercise in lowering blood pressure. Additionally, yoga may lead to improved heart rate variability, which is another risk factor for hypertension. It improves flexibility not just in the muscles but the arteries as well as stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system through the vagus nerve. Consequently, this lowers heart rate and blood pressure.

Yoga for Diabetes:

In some studies, yoga programs have been associated with better control of blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, at least in the short term. The practice of yoga asanas and pranayama can help with the management of type II diabetes, as well as serve as an adjunct to medical therapy. India is reported to be the diabetic capital of the world, due to its large number of diabetic patients, therefore it becomes quite obvious for countries like India which have a large number of diabetes patients to explore yoga for natural ways of diabetes management.

According to research, daily yoga practice in the morning for three consecutive months under a yoga expert decreased postprandial glucose and acetylated hemoglobin levels and also decreased fasting glucose levels in the subject. Another significant study found that yoga asanas and pranayama brought down fasting blood glucose levels as well as postprandial blood glucose levels and acetylated hemoglobin in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients. They also experienced a sense of well-being within five days of beginning the practice and less anti-diabetic drug use. Furthermore, yoga has a beneficial effect on cognitive brain function, and can therefore be added to conventional medical treatment for improving cognitive brain function in diabetics with type 2.

Other than the conditions mentioned above, Yoga has been found to be effective for various types of pain conditions, recent research has shown positive results when yoga was performed regularly by patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Asthma etc. There have been quite a few studies done on yoga for cancer patients, including studies on women with breast cancer. These studies have provided some evidence that yoga can reduce fatigue and sleep disturbances, as well as improve quality of life.

Modern studies largely focus on the physical aspects of Yoga, although that is also serving well and the world is realising and acknowledging the health benefits of the yogic lifestyle. However, Yoga is much more than just combinations of poses and exercises to improve one’s health.

Yoga represents the union of the individual’s consciousness with the supreme consciousness, which is something much beyond the physical nature of human beings and can only be understood individually, through our own practice and through our own ways. Yoga consists of eight limbs, namely yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. With the intensive practice of these limbs, one can attain self-realization, which is the primary goal of yoga. Yoga is an integrative way of life that leads to a state of physical, social, mental, and spiritual well-being, as well as harmony with nature, as opposed to the purely economic and material developmental goals of modern civilization, which have caused social unrest and ecological devastation.