Strike a Pose
What are the real - and not so real - benefits of yoga?
Claim: Yoga tones muscles and increases flexibility,
strength, and stamina.
Science says: Yoga increases flexibility, strength, and
stamina, but no studies show that it tones muscles. Still, tone is partially a
function of nervous system stimulation of the muscle; any physical activity,
done repeatedly, produces muscle tone.
Claim: Yoga reduces stress and tension.
Science says: It's true! Studies show both a reduction in
perceived stress and a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate among
Claim: The twisting postures in yoga release harmful toxins
from internal organs and boost the immune system.
Science says: No studies could be found to bolster such
claims. There is some evidence showing that yoga postures may help reduce pain
and inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Claim: Yoga aids weight loss.
Science says: Any physical activity, coupled with controlled
eating, aids weight loss. Different yoga methods -- vinyasa, hatha, and
kundalini, to name a few -- are practiced at different speeds and strength
levels, burning calories at different rates.
Claim: Yoga improves circulation, thereby reducing acne,
the signs of aging, and other skin disorders.
Science says: No studies yet support these claims. Stress is
commonly blamed for causing acne, but most doctors think it has little
Claim: Yoga helps you "stay regular" by stimulating
the digestive system.
Science says: A few studies report improvement in bowel
patterns among yoga enthusiasts. The mechanism for this effect has not been
studied; it's possible that a decrease in stress hormones may have a positive
effect on intestinal motility and bowel movements.
Claim: Yoga can help reduce the cause and effects of high
blood pressure, diabetes, depression, colds, cancer, backaches, and more.
Science says: Some studies show that practicing yoga can
reduce blood pressure, improve blood glucose in people with diabetes, improve
mood, improve the pain and discomfort associated with chemotherapy for cancer
patients, and reduce the pain from back problems.