Strike a Pose

What are the real - and not so real - benefits of yoga?

WebMD Feature
Reviewed By Rich Weil, MEd, CDE

Claim: Yoga tones muscles and increases flexibility, strength, and stamina.
Science says: Yoga increases flexibility, strength, and stamina, but no studies show that it tones muscles. Still, tone is partially a function of nervous system stimulation of the muscle; any physical activity, done repeatedly, produces muscle tone.

Claim: Yoga reduces stress and tension.
Science says: It's true! Studies show both a reduction in perceived stress and a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate among yogis.

Claim: The twisting postures in yoga release harmful toxins from internal organs and boost the immune system.
Science says: No studies could be found to bolster such claims. There is some evidence showing that yoga postures may help reduce pain and inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Claim: Yoga aids weight loss.
Science says: Any physical activity, coupled with controlled eating, aids weight loss. Different yoga methods -- vinyasa, hatha, and kundalini, to name a few -- are practiced at different speeds and strength levels, burning calories at different rates.