An increasing corpus of research trials show that yoga practice is associated with improved health and quality of life. Through a combination of mindful movement, controlled breathing, and meditation yoga enhances physical functioning, reduces stress, enhances mental health, improves executive functioning, and is correlated with healthy lifestyles habits.
For individuals with mental and physical health problems the practice of yoga therapy can be equally beneficial. Yoga therapy is growing discipline, which integrates insights from physiology, psychology, and medical science with the ancient tradition of yoga to adapt practices to safely meet a variety of health needs. Yoga therapists undergo extensive training programs that prepare them to work with people who have cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, depression and anxiety, lower back pain, chronic pain, autoimmune conditions and a host of other chronic physical and mental ailments. Often yoga therapy is offered in one to one, however, groups are also common and provide valuable social support amongst individuals managing similar health conditions.
Research supports yoga therapy
Research further supports the value of yoga therapy. A 2015 bibliometric analysis found there were over 450 yoga therapy publications in peer reviewed journals, most with very encouraging results for the aforementioned conditions and many more. Studies investigating the mechanisms associated with yoga’s efficacy reveal reductions in inflammatory markers, fasting glucose levels, and cortisol, improvements in heart rate variability, increases in neurotransmitters such as GABA, and dopamine serotonin, increases in connectedness and self-compassion, and improvements in strength and balance; all contribute to yoga’s salutary effects.
Finding out more
If you are interested in prescribing yoga therapy to a patient, or you are a patient who would like to try yoga therapy it is best to seek someone who has completed a recognised yoga therapy course. Currently, there is no national registrar, however, The British Council of Yoga Therapy, regulated by the CNHC, is the UK governing body and it has a list of member schools. If you search for yoga therapy in your area make sure that the professional has graduated from one of these recognised institutions.