Yoga Therapy Research

Yoga teacher with a student

I spent a better part of the weekend going over videos from the Global Yoga Therapy Day Summit. Yes, I am a nerd. I did apply to present but was not chosen. That is ok. I sent in a video that they will replay on a later date. Please see the blog post on my Top 10 of Working with People that Have Limited Language. I was supposed to be doing this Thursday and Friday but the universe had other plans. Anyway, I wanted to shift gears this week and just share a bit of what I learned and what the current research is saying in regards to yoga.

Matthew Taylor is a PhD, PT, and a yoga therapist. He did a great job talking about the benefits of yoga therapy and demystifying the woo woo concepts of what people may think when they hear yoga. I went ahead and purchased his book and there will be a post on that I am sure.

Yoga Therapy Benefits

  • Improved relaxation
  • Introception (ability to feel internal signals)
  • Values
  • Concentration
  • Spectrum of breathing
  • Reliance
  • Development
  • Internal silence
  • Affective acuity

What Research Beginning to Show

  • COPD- increased pulmonary function and decreased dyspnea
  • Diabetes Type 2- increased glycemic control, improved body composition (BMI), decreased lipids, and decreased medications
  • Prevention of type 2 diabetes- decreased A1C
  • Cancer- improved quality of life, immune function, improved fatigue, chemo side affect reduction, decreased cortisol, improved sleep and weight
  • Obesity- decreased visceral fat, decreased circumference, decreased risk factors for other conditions, improved body image
  • Schizophrenia- improved cognitive function and stress (*no evidence that yoga therapy replaces meds!!)
  • Depression- some decrease
  • Generalized anxiety- does decrease symptoms but CBT is still more affective (imagine combining the 2!)
  • PTSD- increased GABA (inhibitory neuro chemical in the brain)
  • Chronic low back pain- safe and as good as PT, less likely to use pain meds, 30% improvement in disability, follow and and adherence improved
  • Neck pain- limited, no difference than doing pilates
  • Parkinsons Disease- safe for mild and moderate phases of the disease
  • MS- decreased fatigue
  • Osteoarthritis- has a lot of barriers

Non disease Specific Benefits Of Yoga

  • Breathing- decreased systolic blood pressure and increased heart rate variability
  • meditation- increases the size of parts of the brain responsible for attention, autonomic functions, and emotions
  • Amygdala actually decreases
  • Progressive deep relaxation- decrease cortisol
  • Improves pain tolerance
  • Brain changes from survival mode to self regulation
  • Decreased inflammatory molecules to the point of changing gene expression
  • Decreased perceived stress
  • Resilience
  • Improved mind body awareness

What is the best yoga posture for (insert condition here)?

There is very limited research on how postures work. So when your teacher says “this pose works on the liver”, there is nothing in current research to back that statement up!

For example, when I talk about inversions especially for children that are in a chronic state of fight or flight (autism, sensory processing disorders, ADHD, trauma, etc), I say I have a theory on why that works but it is not proven. My theory is that when in flight or fight, blood pools to the large muscle groups to prepare to fight or flight. Ok, so if we get these large muscle groups above the heart and let gravity pool the blood away from large muscle groups, that the body and brain can calm down. This is not proven but observed in my 17 years as an occupational therapist. My teachers response to that question- “do the whole practice”.

Research Now is Biased

The stat that was thrown out was that 14.3% of Americans have practiced yoga in the past year. 5% of any parent of society doing anything is clinically significant. However, lets look at most studios here in this country. It is rich white lady privilege. It is not accessible to the masses. (This was the only reason I agreed to take insurance is to serve more people). When COVID is over, my studio model side of the business will be taking a huge overhaul.

There is so much more and I would highly recommend watching the presentations listed above. I will be discussing many of these benefits in my upcoming presentation, Linking The Pieces to Sensory and Processing. For more information about my course, please register here.

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