Written By: Sayer Ji, Founder of www.GreenMedInfo.com
Modern science now confirms why humans have been practicing yoga since the beginning of recorded history: it is good both for the body and mind.
There is evidence in the archeological record that yoga has been practiced by humans for at least 5,000 years. Whereas this would constitute sufficient evidence for most folks to consider it a practice with real health benefits, as its millions of practitioners widely claim, skeptics say otherwise. They require any activity deemed to be of therapeutic value run the gauntlet of randomized, controlled clinical trials before it is fully accepted within the conventional medical system.
This tendency towards scientism in medicine, or what some call medical monotheism, runs diametrically opposed to the standards of lived-experience – so called "subjectivity" – or anecdotal experience (learning from the experience of others) which is what the majority of the world uses to determine if something has value, or is worth doing or not.
Yoga, of course, is no longer exclusively practiced by a particular religious group. It is considered a form of low-impact exercise and stress-reduction, and is estimated to be practiced by 20 million people in the US alone. This burgeoning interest among Westerners happens to be why so much human clinical research has now been performed on yoga. The US National Library of Medicine's bibliographic database shows that in 1968, seven studies were published on yoga. This year, there have been over 250. So much research, in fact, has accumulated that even systematic reviews of the literature have now been published.
Take a recently published systematic review in the Clinical Journal of Pain where an evaluation of ten randomized controlled trials found patients with chronic low back pain found "short-term effectiveness and moderate evidence for long-term effectiveness of yoga for chronic low back pain."[i]
The meta-analysis sits comfortably on the top of the pyramid of truth of "evidence-based" medicine. Once confirmation has occurred at these heights, few can accuse such an intervention of "quackery" without indicting the very holy grail of modern medicine itself.
So, what other human clinical research now confirms the value of yoga in the prevention and treatment of disease? We have found evidence supporting the use of yoga in as many as 70 distinct disease categories, all of which can be viewed on our Yoga Health Benefits page, and with 7 listed below:
Nonetheless, it is clear that yoga has come of age. Ancient wisdom is finding renewed confirmation by men and women in lab coats, who themselves could stand to loosen up and throw down a sun salutation or two. Considering the aforementioned "scientific research" available today, they might now be more inclined to do so.
"Cast away all negative thoughts and fears. If your will is yoked to wisdom, you can achieve anything."