Strike a Pose
What are the real - and not so real - benefits of yoga?
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
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
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.
Claim: Yoga improves circulation, thereby reducing
acne, the signs of aging, and other skin disorders.
Science says: No studies yet support these claims.
Stress is commonly blamed for causing acne, but most doctors think it
has little effect.
Claim: Yoga helps you "stay regular" by stimulating
the digestive system.
Science says: A few studies report improvement in bowel
patterns among yoga enthusiasts. The mechanism for this effect has not
been studied; it's possible that a decrease in stress hormones may have
a positive effect on intestinal motility and bowel movements.
Claim: Yoga can help reduce the cause and effects of
high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, colds , cancer, backaches, and
Science says: Some studies show that practicing yoga
can reduce blood pressure, improve blood glucose in people with
diabetes, improve mood, improve the pain and discomfort associated with
chemotherapy for cancer patients, and reduce the pain from back
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Last Editorial Review: 10/4/2005