Is the Hype True? 


Even the information on Yoga found on the Internet provides its own medical support. According to the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 1997, "Research on mind-body exercise programs such as yoga . . . reveal they have significant mental and physical value." In 1994 the International Journal of Psychosomatics printed a study that showed a group of yogin "demonstrated higher scores in life satisfaction, ability to cope with stress, high spirit, and extravertedness." Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 1997, stated that "The techniques of mindfulness meditation, with their emphasis on developing detached observation and awareness of the contents of consciousness, may represent a powerful cognitive behavioral coping strategy for transforming the ways in which we respond to life events" ( Each source delivers a general thought that Yoga is beneficial to the mind and body, as relaxation controls the body and enhances its functions.

All the affirmative reactions to Yoga and its effects are with just cause. Copious scientific research and studies have concluded that Yoga is a beneficial component in treating health problems, many associated with stress and the immune system. For example, one reaction of the sympathetic nervous system, activated by stress, is high blood pressure. Many people who suffer the effects of high blood pressure are warned against potentially stressful situations to avoid dramatic consequences, even including heart attacks and failure. One man, a 46-year old USAF aviator, had a six-year old history of mild essential hypertension. After trying various medications, a new diet, and even an exercise routine, he finally resorted to yoga relaxation. "After six weeks, medication had been discontinued, and his diastolic blood pressure remained within normal levels. The patient was subsequently returned to full flight status without recurrence of diastolic hypertension at follow-up six months later" (Brownstein, 1989). One of the greatest deciding factors for the patient to practice Yoga was that many medications available for that specific health condition would also put limits on his career. It is true that the medical model, involving the prescription of drugs and surgeries, may be quite effective in overcoming illness, but alternative therapies such as Yoga are not only a continuing process, they also deliver long-term health benefits, and boost the body’s own immune system. Instead of treating a condition’s side effects, Yoga concentrates on the overall wellbeing of the body and its continuing health, continuing even after the symptoms of an illness cease, and hopefully preventing them from occurring once more.

In other related research of the effectiveness of Yoga on the wellness of the heart was discovered an article by Roger La Forge, writing on behalf of the Lipid Disorder Training Program of the San Diego Cardiac Center Medical Group. He comments on Yoga’s relation to the heart:

"There are…primary and secondary preventive indications for cardiovascular disease in which mind-body exercise can play a primary or complementary role. Mid-body exercise programs will be a welcome and necessary addition to evolving disease management models that focus on self-care and decreased health care use" (La Forge).

La Forge goes on to say that mind-body exercises, such as Yoga, combined with current "cardiac rehabilitation services" can "improve self-efficacy and long-term adherence to healthy behaviors as well as improve personal stress management skills."

Another study of the health benefits of Yoga was done at the International Course Center of the Scandinavian Yoga and Meditation School in South Sweden. In this specific case, a group of subjects were exposed to four months of a mostly-vegetarian diet, and hours upon hours of Yoga meditation. As time progressed, the amount of time devoted to the meditation and stretching exercises was increased. During the first month, basic Yoga techniques were taught and practiced regularly. Throughout the second month, Kriya Yoga was introduced, "an advanced tantric meditation process combining physical and mental techniques," and these sessions would last up to four hours, or sometimes longer (Schmidt, 1997). In the meantime, when the subjects were not in meditation, they were free to do anything but make contact with the outside world.

As a result of this intense study, many conclusions were made regarding health. One factor was that all whom had previously been smokers were no longer. The stress of smoking had been "dealt with," or surpassed psychologically through controlling the desire to give into the addiction of nicotine. Another observation made was that the participants lost an average of 5.7 kg of weight during the experience. This was also due to the mostly-vegetarian diet. Probing deeper into the test results, other conclusions were made by comparing test samples, for example of leukocyte count, where "significant changes were seen" (Schmidt). Leukocytes, better known as white blood cells, are a major force in the immune system that destroy foreign agents and protect the body from illness. Leukocytes can be thought of as the "army" of blood that attack and destroy the enemy: foreign invaders. When the immune system is strong, the body is better prepared and able to deal with the stress that correlates with every day activity, as well as the occasional crisis. A higher immune system protects the body from the threat of these untimely incidents, providing a sufficient "defense." This is yet another proof of how Yoga prevents illness and promotes wellness.

Multiple other studies have been done that single out the effects of fitness in general on stress. In one study, fitness level was compared to the "autonomic reactivity to psychosocial stress." In a trial involving 45 men, some trained, untrained, and some in training, were all tested every three weeks for a total of nine weeks. The results showed that "trained subjects showed faster autonomic recovery from this stress than did untrained or training subjects" (Keller, 1984). In another study, 60 participants were randomly assigned to aerobic exercise, meditation, and music, for a ten-week period. The subjects who endured the physical training performed more effectively with emotional stress (Keller). Although Yoga includes meditation, one must not forget that a major component of the mind therapy is stretching and movement. These activities require much balance, for which it is essential to master strength and coordination. This form of exercise may not cause puddles of sweat, but it will tone and strengthen the muscles of the body. In this way, Yoga is almost the opposite of an aerobic exercise, in that it relaxes the pulse through controlled breathing, yet all the while it may tone and shape muscles the same as an aerobic exercise.




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