Young woman silhouette practicing yoga on the sea beach at sunset

Modern science now confirms why humans have been practising yoga since the beginning of recorded history: it is good both for the body and mind.

There is evidence in the archaeological record that yoga has been practiced by humans for at least 5,000 years. Whereas this would constitute sufficient evidence for most folks to consider it a practice with real health benefits, as its millions of practitioners widely claim, skeptics say otherwise. They require any activity deemed to be of therapeutic value run the gauntlet of randomised, controlled clinical trials before it is fully accepted within the conventional medical system.

Yoga, of course, is no longer exclusively practised by a particular religious group. It is considered a form of low-impact exercise and stress-reduction, and is estimated to be practiced by 20 million people in the US alone. This burgeoning interest among Westerners happens to be why so much human clinical research has now been performed on yoga. The US National Library of Medicine’s bibliographic database shows that in 1968, seven studies were published on yoga. This year, there have been over 250. So much research, in fact, has accumulated that even systematic reviews of the literature have now been published.

Take a recently published systematic review in the Clinical Journal of Pain where an evaluation of ten randomised controlled trials found patients with chronic low back pain found “short-term effectiveness and moderate evidence for long-term effectiveness of yoga for chronic low back pain.”

The meta-analysis sits comfortably on the top of the pyramid of truth of “evidence-based” medicine. Once confirmation has occurred at these heights, few can accuse such an intervention of “quackery” without indicting the very holy grail of modern medicine itself.

Yoga’s Many Health Benefits

So , what other human clinical research now confirms the value of yoga in the prevention and treatment of disease? We have found evidence supporting the use of yoga in as many as 70 distinct disease categories, seven of which are listed below:

Type 2 Diabetes:

Yoga has been found to reduce blood sugar and drug requirements in patients with type 2 diabetes. Additional benefits for type 2 diabetics include the reduction of oxidative stress, improved cognitive brain function, improving cardiovascular function,] and reducing body mass index, improved well-being and reduced anxiety.


There are now four clinical studies indicating that yoga practice improves the condition of those with bronchial asthma.

Elevated Cortisol (Stress):

Yoga practice has been found to decrease serum cortisol levels which have been correlated with alpha wave activation. Yoga also compares favourably in this respect to African dance, the latter of which raises cortisol. Women suffering from mental stress, including breast cancer outpatients undergoing adjuvant radiotherapy, have been found to respond to yoga intervention with lowered cortisol levels, as well as associated mental stress and anxiety reduction.


There are three studies indicating that yoga improves the condition of patients suffering from fibromyalgia.

High Blood Pressure:

There are three studies indicating that yoga improves the condition of patients suffering from fibromyalgia.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:

Yoga has been found to be efficacious in improving obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

Computer Eye Strain:

Yoga practice reduced visual discomfort in professional computer users.

The examples above, of course, concern very specific health benefits. The experienced health benefits of yoga, on the other hand, are far more numerous and all-encompassing than the reductionist medical model seeking to grant it official recognition and credibility will ever be able to fully grasp.

Nonetheless, it is clear that yoga has come of age. Ancient wisdom is finding renewed confirmation by men and women in lab coats, who themselves could stand to loosen up and throw down a sun salutation or two.

Considering the aforementioned “scientific research” available today, they might now be more inclined to do so.