S27: Yoga as Therapy: Rationale and Research

Sat BirKhalsa1, Robert Saper2, Chris Streeter3, Kim Innes4

1Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, USA; 2Department of Family Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, USA; 3Boston University School of Medicine, USA; 4West Virginia University, USA


The western perception yoga is often restricted to its representation as a form of exercise.  However, yoga is historically and primarily a multicomponent contemplative practice that includes physical postures and exercises, breathing and relaxation techniques, the practice of meditation and the cultivation of mindfulness and awareness, and ultimately, enhancements in emotion regulation, well-being, life satisfaction and spirituality.  Recent surveys have shown that the practice of yoga has become very popular in the west, due largely to its positive psychophysiological benefits, particularly in managing stress.  The 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) revealed that yoga and its related practices of deep breathing and meditation were within the top ten most popular alternative medicine practices.  Furthermore, these 3 practices were among those that showed the greatest increase in prevalence from the previous 2002 survey, with yoga increasing from a prevalence of 5.1% to 6.1% in that 5-year period.  This rapid growth in popularity has been paralleled by a dramatic increase in research on the efficacy of yoga as a therapeutic intervention for many medical and psychiatric conditions.  The purpose of this symposium is to present an overview of scientific research on the use of yoga as a therapeutic intervention.  Presenters will review the underlying scientific rationale for the use of yoga for different medical and psychiatric disorders, describing the relevance of the psychophysiological effects of yoga practice to the treatment of pathological conditions.  The published research literature on efficacy studies of yoga in a variety of conditions will be reviewed and discussed as will recent trends and developments and future directions for this field of research.  Presenters will also present highlights of their own ongoing yoga research initiatives to further illustrate these concepts and approaches.