Yoga Therapy is quickly becoming an in-demand complementary therapy. Once a niche of the yoga industry, Yoga Therapy is now routinely found in public hospitals, private clinics, mental health, disability and cancer survivorship programs.
One of the reasons Yoga Therapy is gaining such popularity in the medical community is the growing evidence base. Over the last ten years, research into the benefits of Yoga Therapy has blossomed, with scientists studying the effects of yoga on people with mental health, musculoskeletal, auto-immune and many other health issues.
It’s important for yoga teachers and therapists to know about this research – it provides a framework for teaching special needs populations and a reference that helps them to serve their students in ways that are safe and effective. While the benefits of the many thousands of yoga practices have yet to be tested under clinical conditions (and it’s unlikely we will ever see a thorough scientific evaluation of every single yoga technique), teachers and therapists can be guided by the evidence base, while still incorporating practices that may be appropriate for their clients but have yet to be studied.
While there are increasing numbers of studies on the benefits of yoga, there are still some problems with yoga research. Most studies have had design weaknesses (Neumark-Sztainer, 2014), such as a lack of control group and small sample sizes. What’s more, because there are so many styles of yoga, researchers have studied a variety of different yoga techniques, making it difficult to generalise the results.
As well as staying up to date on yoga research, it’s also important for yoga teachers and therapists to be able to differentiate between high quality research and studies that may, on the surface, look promising but are actually unhelpful. It would be bad practice to convince a student that the techniques you’re teaching are based on scientific studies when the research paper you read centred on a single case study or used poor methodology that distorted results.
It may also be the case, as suggested by David Emerson in his book Overcoming Trauma with Yoga, that certain yoga styles can actually be detrimental to some populations, such as exacerbating negative thought processes and creating negative patterns in people with some mental health issues.
Because research is an important part of the development of Yoga Therapy as a healing modality, Adore Yoga shares key research findings through its blog and social media channels. We also produce Research Roundups, reports that detail recent high quality research findings, along with full references, that are produced in an easy to access format. Each Research Roundup covers a particular area of health and wellbeing, including Cancer, the Immune System, Back Pain, Heart Disease and Eating Disorders. Subscribe to the Adore Yoga blogs to receive updates.
Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.