The Scientific Basis of Yoga Therapy
One of the most exciting developments in the last few decades is the cross-fertilization of Western science with ideas from ancient Eastern wisdom systems such as yoga. With increasing precision, scientists are able to look at the brain and body and detect the sometimes subtle changes that practitioners of yoga and mediation undergo. Years ago, few yoga studies were done in the West, and most scientists dismissed Indian yoga research due to methodological problems, such as a lack of control groups in the studies. Now the methodology is much better, and it could be argued that many Indian studies of yoga are superior to most of those done in the West.
As yoga becomes more and more mainstream, and as research dollars for alternative and complementary health systems continue to grow, studies of yoga are getting not only better but also more numerous in both India and the United States. In just the last few years, research has documented the efficacy of yoga for such conditions as back pain, multiple sclerosis, insomnia, cancer, heart disease, and even tuberculosis. Studies are also increasingly documenting how yoga works. Among its many beneficial effects, yoga has been shown to increase strength, flexibility, and balance; enhance immune function; lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels; and improve psychological well-being. One of yoga’s most prominent effects, of course, is stress reduction.