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National Institutes of Health • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

NCCAM Clinical Digest. For health professionals.

Yoga for Health

October 2014
A computer rendering of a person's bones while doing yoga.

This issue of the digest summarizes current scientific evidence about yoga for health conditions, including chronic low-back pain, asthma, and arthritis.

The scientific evidence to date suggests that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses may help reduce pain and improve function in people with chronic low-back pain. Studies also suggest that practicing yoga (as well as other forms of regular exercise) might confer other health benefits such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and may also help alleviate anxiety and depression. Other research suggests yoga’s deep breathing is not helpful for asthma, and studies looking at yoga and arthritis have had mixed results.

Condition Summary of Current Evidence

Chronic low-back pain

Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society (ACP/APS) found fair evidence that yoga (Viniyoga) is effective for chronic low-back pain.

*The guidelines recommend that practitioners consider the non-pharmacological interventions as appropriate options when treating patients whose low-back pain does not improve with more conservative self-care.

Read more about the evidence-base for chronic low-back pain

Asthma

Although a few individual trials have reported positive effects of breathing exercises performed through yoga or other interventions, systematic reviews of the evidence suggest that there is no sound evidence that yoga improves asthma.

Read more about the evidence-base for asthma

Arthritis

Only a few published studies have examined yoga and arthritis, and of those that have, results are inconclusive.

Read more about the evidence-base for arthritis

Clinical Guidelines

Scientific Literature

NCCAM Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NIH, DHHS. NCCAM Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCAM-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCAM's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCAM Web site at nccam.nih.gov. NCCAM is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

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Content is in the public domain and may be reprinted, except if marked as copyrighted (©). Please credit the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine as the source. All copyrighted material is the property of its respective owners and may not be reprinted without their permission.

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