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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 177-178

The theory and practice of yoga: Research findings and future vast potential for healthy lifestyles

Chief Editor, Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Research, 102, Vasudha Clinic, Madhuvan C.H.S, Santacruz (W), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission15-Jun-2015
Date of Decision18-Jun-2015
Date of Acceptance20-Jun-2015
Date of Web Publication6-Aug-2015

Correspondence Address:
Ashok D.B. Vaidya
Chief Editor, Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Research, 102, Vasudha Clinic, Madhuvan C.H.S, Santacruz (W), Mumbai, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2347-9906.162367

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How to cite this article:
Shukla N, Vaidya AD. The theory and practice of yoga: Research findings and future vast potential for healthy lifestyles. J Obes Metab Res 2015;2:177-8

How to cite this URL:
Shukla N, Vaidya AD. The theory and practice of yoga: Research findings and future vast potential for healthy lifestyles. J Obes Metab Res [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Feb 22];2:177-8. Available from: http://www.jomrjournal.org/text.asp?2015/2/3/177/162367

With the declaration of the International Day of Yoga, the United Nations has refocused a global attention on yoga. It was more than a century back that Swami Vivekananda, the father of the Indian renaissance, made the world aware of the great heritage of yoga that India has to offer to the world. He lucidly and with subtlety summarized the four principal types of yoga: Bhakti-Yoga, Gyana-Yoga, Karma-Yoga, and Raja-Yoga. His four treatises on these yogas would be the foundation of the principles and theories of yoga for anyone who is seriously interested in teaching, services, and research in yoga. In his much celebrated lecture on "the ideal of a Universal Religion," the Swami has elaborated on how yoga can provide different types of mind with appropriate methods for their spiritual and intellectual development. With a noble futuristic spirit, he has stated, "yoga means union. To the worker, it is union between men and the whole humanity (through selfless work); to the mystic, between his lower and higher self (through psychic growth); to the lover, union between himself and the God of love (through devotion and surrender); and to the philosopher, it is the union of all existence." [1]

As yoga was considered an esoteric subject, shrouded in the Eastern mysteries, scientists were reluctant to investigate the domain for a very long time. The first initiative was taken by scientists in India. Professor Bal Krishan Anand (1917-2007), a pioneer neurophysiologist, besides his path-breaking research on the feeding center in the hypothalamus, he also undertook studies of physiological variables in a Yogi, in deep meditation. [2],[3],[4] These studies generated a global interest in the cardiovascular and brain effects of yoga. The first nations, outside India, to get interested in serious research on yoga and meditation were the United States of America and Japan. Later, interest in yoga for health was widespread and people from many walks of life turned to the physical yoga. Despite such an interest, the Japan Yoga Therapy Society was established as late as in 2003. In 1960s and 1970s, the movement of transcendental meditation (TM), by Mahesh Yogi, got many scientists interested in scientific studies on TM. Wallace in a paper published in science showed that TM was accompanied by a decreased metabolic rate, a reduction in heart rate, an increase in basal skin resistance, and alpha activities on electroencephalogram. [5] These findings generated more interest in scientific research in yoga and deep meditation. As a consequence, the beneficial effects of yoga in stress management, cardiovascular diseases, anxiety, depression, etc., were explored. Several centers and institutes focused exclusively on the healing aspects of yoga in diverse studies. Nagendra, Tellis, Nagarathna, Alex Hankey, and others have contributed significantly to the field at SVYASA. [6]

The review by Bernstein et al. have shown that the number of adults practicing yoga have increased from 6% to 20% in the last 6 years (2007-2014). Though weight management is expected to be easier in yoga practitioners (YP), it has been reported that a large percentage continue to be overweight or obese. This emphasizes the need of equal attention to be given to diet and other forms of exercise. The diverse styles of yoga have been mentioned in the review. The effect on adaptation to stress needs more attention in yoga practitioners. [7]

The study from the Patanjali Research Foundation and Australian collaborators investigated oxygen consumption (OC) in YP and patients with metabolic syndrome (MS). [8] The interventions used were mental arithmetic stress and defined Yogic practices. The patients with MS had significant blunted poststress recovery of OC as compared to the YP group. The experimental protocol was fairly sophisticated and statistically well-designed with proper control of the laboratory milieu. The fact that the OC of MS patients had a delayed recovery suggests that Yogic practices reduced the metabolic burden of the stress. Whether types of stress, other than mental arithmetic, would also impose similar metabolic burden needs to be explored further. Though authors do stress about the observational nature of the study and consider that a randomized controlled trial would be better. It is more desirable that MS patients should be studied longitudinally over a period of 3-5 years not only to study the OC, but diverse markers of obesity and MS.

An attempt was made to assess the impact of an 8-week Yoga intervention on physical activity in persons with or at risk of Type 2 diabetes. [9] Iyengar yoga techniques were followed in the interventional group. The follow-up of the patients and controls was for a long duration (from 3 to 15 months). The authors conclude that yoga had slight or no effect on physical activity over the long follow-up. However, the fact that the practice of yoga dropped from 54% to 14% suggests that the conclusion is totally fair. Yoga should be included in an interventional program that is integrative of diet, exercise, and if needed essential drugs for the prediabetic group. Despite the statistical analysis, the study does not contribute much as there was no reinforcement of daily Yogic practice along with other measures for obesity and metabolic disturbances.

The benefits of regular walking in overweight, obesity, and diabetes are well-known when coupled with also dietary control and other healthy lifestyle measures. However, somehow there are fine academic hair-splitting exercises to compare the individual measures for their effects on anthropometric and metabolic variables. These approaches when presented as comparative and controlled trials often gain a misplaced adulation. Recently, a comparative study of yoga and walking for overweight and obese adults was conducted in 68 participants for 15 days only. [10] Several variables were studied basally and after randomized intervention. The diet was constant between the groups. It is amazing that the authors make the obvious conclusion, "both yoga and walking improved anthropometric variables and serum lipid profile in overweight and obese persons." It is interesting to note that the statistically significant changes have occurred within a fortnight! This fact opens up the need to explore short term integrative interventions in obesity/overweight trials.

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There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Vol. 2. Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama; 1999. p. 375-96.  Back to cited text no. 1
Anand BK, Chhina GS, Singh B. Some aspects of electroencephalographic studies in yogis. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 1961;13:452-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Anand BK, Chhina GS, Singh B. Studies on Shri Ramanand Yogi during his stay in an airtight box. Indian J Med Res 1961;49:82-97.  Back to cited text no. 3
Wenger MA, Bagchi BK, Anand BK. Experiments in India on "voluntary" control of the heart and pulse. Circulation 1961;24:1319-25.  Back to cited text no. 4
Wallace RK. Physiological effects of transcendental meditation. Science 1970;167:1751-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
Available from: http://www.svyasa.edu.in/. [Last accessed on 2015 Jun 23].  Back to cited text no. 6
Bernstein AM, Judi B, Ehrman JP, Golubic M, Roizen MF. Yoga in the management of overweight and obesity. Am J Lifestyle Med 2014;8:33-41.  Back to cited text no. 7
Tyagi A, Cohen M, Reece J, Telles S. An explorative study of metabolic responses to mental stress and yoga practices in yoga practitioners, non-yoga practitioners and individuals with metabolic syndrome. BMC Complement Altern Med 2014;14:445.  Back to cited text no. 8
Alexander G, Innes KE, Bourguignon C, Bovbjerg VE, Kulbok P, Taylor AG. Patterns of yoga practice and physical activity following a yoga intervention for adults with or at risk for type 2 diabetes. J Phys Act Health 2012;9:53-61.  Back to cited text no. 9
Telles S, Sharma SK, Yadav A, Singh N, Balkrishna A. A comparative controlled trial comparing the effects of yoga and walking for overweight and obese adults. Med Sci Monit 2014;20:894-904.  Back to cited text no. 10


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