• The Relationship of Yoga to Aspects of Health: Results of a National Survey of Yoga Practitioners

      Ross, Alyson Coleen; Thomas, Sue Ann, 1947- (2012)
      Unhealthy lifestyles in America have resulted in an explosion of chronic health conditions. Purpose: To better understand the interrelationship among yoga practice and aspects of health. Primary aims: (1) to describe the practice habits/characteristics and health habits/characteristics of individuals who practice yoga; and (2) to examine the relationship between yoga practice and aspects of health. Methods: Cross-sectional design using anonymous Internet survey; 4307 yoga practitioners randomly selected from 15 US Iyengar yoga studios; 1045 (24.3%) surveys completed. Results: Sixty percent indicated 1+ chronic/serious health conditions, yet most reported very good (46.3%) or excellent (38.8%) health. Participants agreed yoga improved health (89.5%), particularly: energy (84.5%), happiness (86.5%), social relationships (67%), sleep (68.5%), and weight (57%). Frequency of home practice was a more important predictor of aspects of health than years of practice or class frequency. Frequency of home practice favorably predicted aspects of health including: mindfulness (beta = .106, p <.001), subjective well-being (beta = .183, p <.001), BMI (beta = -.043, p <.001), fruit and vegetable consumption (beta = .031, p <.001), vegetarian status (r = .162, p <.001), and sleep disturbance (r = -170, p < 0.01). Physical yoga poses (standing, vigorous, inversions, and gentle) were each related to 1+ aspects of health. Breath work, meditation, and philosophy study predicted multiple health outcomes. Conclusions: Yoga is potentially an important therapeutic tool. Individuals who practice yoga are not necessarily healthy at the outset. Emphasis should be placed less on delivery and more on incorporating healthy interventions like yoga into one's daily life.