In the first part of this article, we went over the basics of yoga and starting looking at some of the many ways this practice can help us both emotionally and physically. Numerous scientific studies seem to back up the theory that yoga can have very positive and tangible effects on the body.
For example, the Harvard Medical School’s website details an interesting 2008 study conducted at the University of Utah that looked at the way yoga may impact the stress response. The researchers worked with a varied group of subjects and noted that people who have a poorly regulated response to stress are typically also more sensitive to pain. The study involved 12 people who were experienced in yoga, 14 people suffering from fibromyalgia, and 16 generally healthy subjects.
When the three groups had varying amounts of pressure applied to their thumbnails, the subjects with fibromyalgia felt the pain at lower pressure levels, while the yoga group had the highest pain tolerance. The researchers also did MRIs on each of the subjects, and interestingly, the fibromyalgia group had the most activity in the areas of the brain associated with response to pain. But the yoga group’s MRIs showed the lowest pain-related activity in the brain. This study seems to give concrete proof that practicing yoga on a regular basis can help a person control their stress and as a bonus, their response to pain.
Yoga may also help people with their mood. In a German study, 24 women who said they were feeling “emotionally distressed” took two 90-minute yoga classes a week for three months. Women who were in a control group went about their regular business and didn’t start an exercise program during the time the study was going on. The 24 women were not diagnosed with depression by a doctor, but they did all say they had felt emotional distress for about half of the past 90 days. They also scored above the norm for perceived stress, anxiety, and depression on different psychological tests.
After the three months ended, the women who took yoga improved in anxiety, depression, stress, energy, fatigue, and well-being.