Health Benefits of Yoga
Two of the most common inquiries we receive from professional members preparing presentations on Yoga and from journalists and students writing about Yoga are:
• What are the health benefits of Yoga?
Following are answers drawn from various sources and provided
in a succinct format. I wish to especially thank the following three individuals:
First, A. Malathi, M.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org),
for her presentation in November 2000 on the benefits of Yoga at
This information is grouped into three categories—physiological benefits, psychological benefits, biochemical effects—and is based on the regular practice of traditional âsana, prânâyâma, and meditation. Please note that while pulse rate, etc., may increase during the practice of various âsanas, some forms of prânâyâma, and some stages of meditation, but overall benefits to general health are as listed below. For information on the physiological changes that occur during the practice of specific âsanas, etc., please see James Funderburk’s Science Studies Yoga and other resources cited at the end of this article.
• Stable autonomic nervous system equilibrium, with a tendency
toward parasympathetic nervous system dominance rather than the usual
stress-induced sympathetic nervous system dominance
• Somatic and kinesthetic awareness increase
• Psychomotor functions improve:
• Grip strength increases
• Cognitive function improves:
The biochemical profile improves, indicating an antistress and antioxidant effect, important in the prevention of degenerative diseases.
• Glucose decreases
Parasympathetic nervous system dominates Sympathetic nervous
Low caloric consumption Moderate to high caloric consumption
Noncompetitive, process-oriented Competitive, goal-oriented
Limitless possibilities for growth in self-awareness Boredom
Select General References
Anantharaman, V., and Sarada Subrahmanyam. Physiological benefits in hatha yoga training. The Yoga Review, 3(1):9-24.
Arpita. Physiological and psychological effects of Hatha yoga: A review of the literature. The Journal of The International Association of Yoga Therapists, 1990, 1(I&II):1-28.
Bhole, M. V. Some neuro-physiological correlates of yogasanas. Yoga-Mimamsa, April 1977, 19(1):53-61.
Cole, Roger. Physiology of yoga. Iyengar Yoga Institute Review, Oct 1985.
Davidson, Julian M. The physiology of meditation and mystical states of consciousness. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Spring 1976, 19:345-379.
Delmonte, M. M. Physiological concomitants of meditation practice. International Journal of Psychosomatics, 1984, 31(4):23-36.
___________. Physiological responses during meditation and rest. Biofeedback Self Regulation, Jan 1984, 9(2):181-200.
___________. Biochemical indices associated with meditation practice: A literature review. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Winter 1985, 9(4):557-561.
Dostaleck, C. Physiological
bases of yoga techniques in the prevention of diseases. CIANS-ISBM Satellite
Ebert, Dietrich. Yoga from the point of view of psychophysiology. Yoga-Mimamsa, 28(4):10-21.
Elson, Barry D., Peter Hauri, and David Cunis. Physiological changes in yoga meditation. Psychophysiology, January 1977, 14:52-57.
Engel, K. Meditation, Vol. 2: Empirical Research and Theory.
Funderburk, James. Science
Studies Yoga: A Review of Physiological Data.
Gopal, K. S., O. P. Bhatnagar, N. Subramanian, and S. D. Nishith. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacy, 1973, 17(3):273-276.
Jevning, R., R. K. Wallace, and M. Beidebach. The physiology of meditation: A review. A wakeful hypometabolic integrated response. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Fall 1992, 16(3):415-424.
King, Roy, M.D., and Ann Brownstone. Neurophysiology of Yoga meditation. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 1999, 9:9-17.
Kuvalayananda, Swami. Some physiological aspects of meditative poses. Yoga-Mimamsa, 1928, 3(3):245-250.
___________. Physiology of pranayama. Kalyana-Kalpataru, 1940, 7(1):219-228.
Majmundar, Matra. Physiology of Yoga Therapeutics (working title). Forthcoming.
Malathi, A., Neela Patil, Nilesh Shah, A. Damodaran, and S. K. Marathe. Promotive, prophylactic benefits of yogic practices in middle-aged women. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, forthcoming 2001, no. 11.
Motoyama, Hiroshi. A Psychophysiological Study of Yoga.
Murphy, M., and S. Donovan. The Physiological and
Psychological Effects of Meditation: A Review of Contemporary Research with a
Comprehensive Bibliography 1931-1996. 2d ed.
Pero, G., and G. Spoto. Study on the anatomy of yoga asana and their neurological effect: A comparative study. Yoga-Mimamsa, 1985, 24(3):17-18.
Roney-Dougal, S. M. On a possible psychophysiology of the yogic chakra system. Journal of Indian Psychology, Jul 1999, 17(2).
Sahu, R. J., and M. V. Bhole. Effect of 3 weeks yogic training programme on psycho-motor performance. Yoga-Mimamsa, 1983, 22(1&2):59-62.
Santha, Joseph, K. Shridharan, S. K. B. Patil, M. L. Kumaria, W. Selvamurthy, and H. S. Nayar. Neurohumoral and metabolic changes consequent to yogic exercises. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 1981, 74:120-124.
___________, K. Shridharan, S. K. B. Patil, M. L. Kumaria, W. Selvamurthy, N. T. Joseph, and H. S. Nayar. Study of some physiological and biochemical parameters in subjects undergoing yogic training. Indian Journal of Medical Research, July 1981, 74:120-124.
Schell, F. J., B. Allolio, and O. W. Schonecke. Physiological and psychological effects of Hatha-Yoga exercise in healthy women. International Journal of Psychosomatics, 1994, 41(1-4):46-52.
Selvamurthy, W., H. S. Nayar, N. T. Joseph, and S. Joseph. Physiological effects
of yogic practices. NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences of
Singh, R. H., R. M. Shettiwar, and K. N. Udupa. Physiological and therapeutic studies on yoga. The Yoga Review, 1982, 2(4):185-209.
___________, and K. N. Udupa. Psychobiological studies on some hatha-yogic practices. Quarterly Journal of Surgical Sciences, 1977, 13(3-4):290-293.
Udupa, K. N., R. H. Singh, and R. M. Shettiwar. Studies on physiological, endocrine and metabolic responses to the practice of ‘yoga’ in young normal volunteers. Journal of Research in. Indian Medicine, 1971, 6(3):345-353.
___________. Studies on physiological and metabolic response to the practice of yoga in young normal volunteers. Journal of Research in Indian Medicine, 1972, 6(3):345-353.
___________. Physiological and biochemical changes following the practice of some yogic and non-yogic exercises. Journal of Research in. Indian Medicine, 1975, 10(2):91-93.
___________. Physiological and biochemical studies on the effect of yoga and certain other exercises. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 1975, 63(4):620-625.
___________. A comparative study on the effect of some individual yogic practices in normal persons. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 1975, 63(8):1960-1971.
___________, R. H. Singh, and R. A. Yadav. Certain studies on psychological and biochemical responses to the practice of hatha yoga in young normal volunteers. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 1973, 61(2):231-244.
Wallace, Robert, and H. Benson. The physiology of meditation. Scientific American, February 1972, 226:84-90.
Wenger, M. A., and B. K. Bagchi.
Studies of autonomic functions in practitioners of Yoga in
West, Michael A. Physiological effects of meditation: A longitudinal study. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, June 1979, 18:219-226.
Woolfolk, Robert L. Psychophysiological correlates of meditation. Archives of General Psychiatry, Oct 1975, 32:1326-1333.
For additional references, see the extensive bibliography “Psychophysiological Effects” at the IAYT website, www.iayt.org/biblio.html.
To view abstracts in the Medline database for some of the cited articles, go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed and in the search box enter the complete title of the article. If this generates too many hits or no hits, try entering the names of the article’s authors using the following format: Delmonte MM (no comma, no periods following the initials, and no space between the initials; if there is more than one author, separate the names by comma, e.g.: Corby JC, Roth WT, etc.; capitalization is not required).
Copyright (c) 2001,
2003, 2004 Trisha Lamb Feuerstein. Reprinted from