Yoga Part 5 – Modern Medicine is Catching Up

Oct 30

One of the greatest yogis of our time, BKS Iyengar, once said “Yoga teaches us to cure what cannot be endured and endure what cannot be cured”. It’s a bold statement… but perhaps one that those with a regular yoga practice may well agree with.


But what about the scientific community?

As reported in the New York Times, in 2015 the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges released a thorough review of randomised, controlled studies (that means they’re respected studies with “scientifically significant” results). Their report concluded that exercise is the Miracle Cure (1) It would seem that physical activity has been grossly overlooked as both a prevention and a cure to many of the illnesses and diseases facing our modern day society. According to the report “regular exercise can prevent dementia, type2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, heart disease and other common serious conditions… better than many drugs.”  On the back of this report, doctors are being recommended to get people active!

Yoga is a great physical activity as there are so many different types, styles and levels (See Part 1 – If you Can Breathe, You can Do Yoga) This means it really can be a lifelong pursuit for everyone; just find your own pace and adjust as necessary.

As yoga becomes increasingly popular, more and more studies are being conducted and the results regarding the benefits of yoga are becoming less anecdotal and more and more significant to the scientific community:-

An early 2007 study of breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy found that not only does yoga ease psychological stress levels in patients but it helps on a cellular level with recovery from Radiation damage, too. (2) A later – randomized, controlled and slightly more complex – trial of the same demographic proved that “yoga improved QOL [Quality of Life] and physiological changes associated with Radiotherapy beyond the benefits of simple stretching exercises, and these benefits appear to have long-term durability”. (3)

In a pilot study on yoga as treatment for lower back pain, at the 4 week follow up, the yoga group reported significantly less pain. (4) The National Scoliosis Foundation recommends practicing the yoga pose Side Plank under instruction and then at home at least 3 times per week after researchers found this improved spine curvature by up to almost 50%! (5)

side plank

In a review on breathing techniques as treatment for asthma, the data collectively implied that there could be potential benefits for asthma sufferers and there is a definite need for further trials. (6) More trials are also needed into the effects of the practice on blood pressure as early studies into yoga and hypertension prove very promising. (7) A pilot study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease also asks for more trials after showing “yoga and meditation had equalled and then topped the benefits of 12 weeks of brain training” not to mention making the participants happier. (8) (9)

One of the most significant and studied areas of research is into yoga as a treatment for anxiety and depression. There are many respected reviews available which suggest yoga “can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression”. (10)  Other controlled trials show yoga also improves “mood and quality of life for the elderly, people caring for patients with dementia, breast cancer survivors, and patients with epilepsy.” (11)

Modern medicine is finally catching up to the ancient wisdoms of yoga and now is a great time to find out how it can positively impact your life. As with any physical activity programme, always check with your doctor before beginning, especially if you have any specific conditions. And then explore, enjoy and find a practice that works for you.

Happy and healthy yoga-ing!


Nette xx

Jeannette Amy (Nette) Hopkinson (BSc Hons Sports & Life Sciences) is a certified yoga teacher and Oneness Blessing Giver based in Andalucia. Follow her on IG @nettenirmalayoga or find her on facebook @NirmalaYogaSpain

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