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The Explosion of Yoga-Related Scientific Research, Revisited

Monday, June 17, 2013 - 6:00am

Photo by Flickr user lululemon athletica.

Back in March I published a short article highlighting the recent explosion in yoga-related scientific research.

I created a simple plot showing the number of scientific studies pertaining to yoga (retrieved from a Pubmed keyword search for “yoga”) as a function of year published.The plot shows a substantial increase in the number of yoga-related studies since the year 2000.

As I mentioned in my earlier article, I think this is a great development. It is clear that the scientific community has become much more interested in understanding the effects of yoga on human health. And the more we know about yoga’s effects on human health, the more effective we can be at using yoga as a tool to promote healthier living.

Three months after the original yoga explosion article, a Pubmed search for the keyword “yoga” now yields 156 entries for the year 2013.

If publishing continues at the same rate, we will see about 340 related papers this year, which is 71 more than were published in 2012. It looks as if we are on pace for another historic year with regards to the publication of yoga-related research.

In related news, I am very happy to report that the “yoga explosion” article recently got a little extra recognition.

The original version of the plot (shown above) made its way into the first edition of the Journal of Yoga Service, published by the Yoga Council.

The plot was used in article titled, “Yoga at the Intersection of Research and Service - Part 1, Experimental Foundations,” written by Dr. Stephanie Shorter. Check it out if you are interested in learning more about how scientists approach yoga-related research. The first edition of the journal is currently available for free online.

While we are on the topic, here are a few other yoga-related science articles from this year I found interesting:

1. Yoga on our minds: a systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatric disorders. Frontiers Psychiatry, Jan. 25, 2013
I wrote about this study back in April. In short, after conducting a literature review, the authors found solid evidence that yoga can be beneficial in the treatment of some major psychiatric disorders, including depression.

2. Effect of yoga on arrhythmia burden, anxiety, depression, and quality of life in paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: the YOGA My Heart Study. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, March 19, 2013.
Researchers from the University of Kansas found that for patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (occasional episodes of an irregular, often rapid, heart rate, which causes poor blood flow to the body), participating in an Iyengar yoga program was associated with a reduction in the average number of atrial fibrillation episodes, as well as anxiety and depression.

3. The acute effects of yoga on executive function. J Phys Act Health, May 10, 2103.
Scientists from the University of Illinois found that 20 minutes of Hatha yoga significantly improved participants' speed and accuracy on tests of working memory and inhibitory control (the ability to resist impulses and suppress inappropriate behavior - in terms of healthy living, think staying away from junk food) compared to 20 minutes of aerobic exercise. The study involved 30 college-age female participants.

Read more about the science of fitness on the Active Life DC Fit Science page.

About the author: Dr. Troy Cellmer is the Chief Editor of Active Life DC. After receiving a PhD from UC-Berkeley, he spent six years studying protein folding and aggregation in the Lab of Chemical Physics at the National Institutes of Health. You can find most of his papers on Pubmed.