- What we know:
Yoga is probably just as good for your health as many other forms of exercise. But it seems particularly promising for improving lower back pain and — crucially — reducing inflammation in the body, which can actually help stave off disease. Yoga also seems to enhance "body awareness," or people's sense of what's going on inside themselves.
What we don't know:
Whether some forms of yoga are better than others, whether yoga should be prescribed to people for various health conditions, and how yoga compares with other forms of exercise for a good many specific health outcomes. There's also no good evidence behind many of the supposed health benefits of yoga, like flushing out toxins and stimulating digestion.
Part of the challenge, which I have mentioned in the past, is defining what we mean by yoga and how to measure it. Yoga is not just stretching, and a 6 week or even 6 month trial comparing yoga to other forms of exercise may not be sufficient to really allow the yoga to work its magic. This is recognized in her article:
- Lorenzo Cohen, chief of the integrative medicine section at MD Anderson Cancer Center, told me: "Many papers [on yoga] don't have enough of an in-depth description of what they mean by 'yoga.' What was the level of training of yoga therapists? How did they choose different postures or breathing exercises?"