In a comment to one of the answers of Is there any scientific evidence that prayer can help to heal? Konerak wrote:

That's for intercessory prayer. Praying for yourself has been correlated to increased healing, but no more than meditation or yoga.

I'm curious if it has even been established that yoga hasa so-called "healing effect" where it can be advocated as being superior to other light-exercises like taking a walk? I am assuming that a healing effect has the same definition as in the above-mentioned question.

  • 5
    I’m not happy with equating yoga – even indirectly – with praying. It’s true that the original purpose of yoga was to aid meditation but most “western” practices of yoga don’t include prayer, and many don’t even include meditation (unless you count shavasana as meditation). /EDIT: I may actually have misunderstood the question. Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 11:31
  • 1
    Also see vox.com/2015/7/22/9012075/yoga-health-benefits-exercise-science
    – Miheer
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 20:46
  • @KonradRudolph - My health club is run by uber-Christians. They make the yoga classes call themselves something like "Gentle Flow" and "Power Stretch" and to not make any references to spiritual or inner energy. By the same token, they won't rent facilities to any martial art that has any kind of roots in far Eastern philosophies or that make reference to channeling actual inner energies. Certainly, people do look to or go out of their way to make that connection. Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 18:33

3 Answers 3


According to the Cochrane collaboration:

Carpal Tunnel

Yoga is successful, short term, for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

Current evidence shows significant short-term benefit from oral steroids, splinting, ultrasound, yoga and carpal bone mobilisation.

This is in line with more general findings that there pain reduction can be induced via meditation.


Yoga is better than regular exercise for schizophrenia patients, but not better than standard or non standard care

One trial compared exercise with yoga and found that yoga had a better outcome for mental state.
source 1 source 2 source 3


However, yoga had merely "potentially beneficial effects" on depression:

Overall, the initial indications are of potentially beneficial effects of yoga interventions on depressive disorders. Variation in interventions, severity and reporting of trial methodology suggests that the findings must be interpreted with caution.

Anxiety disorder

Yoga is just as effective as other relaxation/meditation techniques:

Yoga did not show significant effectiveness in treating obsessive-compulsive disorders compared with Relaxation/Meditation.


Finally, yoga is not demonstrably effective on epilepsy:

No reliable conclusions can be drawn regarding the efficacy of yoga as a treatment for epilepsy.

  • 3
    all these studies have their biases : nirmukta.com/2015/06/19/no-yoga-does-not-cure-any-disease
    – user11777
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 4:31
  • 9
    The article you linked above seems to come from a very unreliable source itself.
    – hashbrown
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 13:19
  • 1
    When I click the source links, I am instantly redirected to a generic "Our Evidence" page. cochrane.org/evidence Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 22:03
  • 1
    What exactly do you mean by yoga? It is a highly variable activity. Analysis is also confounded by lack of definition, not a priori specifying endpoints, arbitrary subgroup division, and a severe reproducibility crisis. Double blind these studies are not! Look, sorry, yoga is no better than rest for just about any pathology you can name.
    – geoO
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 12:56
  • 1
    @Sklivvz Fully aware, my point exactly. Until "yoga" itself has an accepted definition you can't do a metastudy of "yoga" because you end up combining many different kinds of yoga. A metastudy that includes hot yoga AND a meditative yoga AND a yoga that incorporates ballistic movement. What have you learned from such a study? Which is the beneficial aspect?
    – geoO
    Commented May 12, 2018 at 12:40


Yoga has been researched for 100 years and researchers have churned out more than 3000 research papers, but none of the studies present any conclusive evidence for the efficacy of yoga in treating any illness. They have not even been successful in standardizing the so called yoga therapy.

According to Verrastro [Verrastro G, 2014], although yoga has been deemed effective for treating conditions from hypertension to epilepsy, many claims are poorly substantiated. Most of these studies are small, short, uncontrolled, non-blinded, with many methodological flaws and high risk of bias. And in most of the studies, details of adverse events and injuries are also not mentioned. Moreover, yoga practices used in the interventions vary markedly, making comparison of results difficult. Interventions have ranged from a single 1-hour session to weekly sessions over several months to inpatient treatment that included many lifestyle modifications. Some studies required subjects to practice physically demanding asanas, while others focused on pranayama or practices similar to guided relaxation.[Verrastro G, 2014]

A bibliometric analysis of the characteristics of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of yoga [Cramer H et al, BMC CAM, 2014] included a total of 366 papers published over forty years, between 1975 and 2014, reporting 312 RCTs from 23 different countries with 22,548 participants. The analysis found that most trials were relatively small in size and failed to explore even common medical conditions frequently. More than 40 different yoga styles were used in the analyzed RCTs; whilst most trials included yoga postures and breathing, yoga meditation and philosophy were less often used (that means, not much of “yoga”). The median study sample size was 59 (range 8–410). Two hundred sixty-four RCTs (84.6%) were conducted with adults, 105 (33.7%) with older adults and 31 (9.9%) with children. Eighty-four RCTs (26.9%) were conducted with healthy participants. Other trials enrolled patients with one of 63 varied medical conditions; the most common being breast cancer (17 RCTs, 5.4%), depression (14 RCTs, 4.5%), asthma (14 RCTs, 4.5%) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (13 RCTs, 4.2%). Whilst 119 RCTs (38.1%) did not define the style of yoga used, 35 RCTs (11.2%) used Hatha yoga and 30 RCTs (9.6%) yoga breathing. The remaining 128 RCTs (41.0%) used 46 varied yoga styles, with a median intervention length of 9 weeks (range 1 day to 1 year). Two hundred and forty-four RCTs (78.2%) used yoga postures, 232 RCTs (74.4%) used breath control, 153 RCTs (49.0%) used meditation and 32 RCTs (10.3%) used philosophy lectures. One hundred and seventy-four RCTs (55.6%) compared yoga with no specific treatment; 21 varied control interventions were used in the remaining RCTs. The authors of this analysis concluded that the available research evidence is sparse for most conditions, and more research is clearly needed. Besides primary research, up-to-date systematic reviews and meta-analyses are needed at least for the most commonly studied conditions in order to evaluate the level of evidence and strength of recommendation for or against the use of yoga in each condition.[Cramer H et al, BMC CAM, 2014]

  • 1
    "Yoga is being researched since 100 years" - Wrong. Yoga is being researched for last one thousand years (using methods contemporary to those times). Read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga_Sutras_of_Patanjali
    – hashbrown
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 13:22
  • I've seen the self-serving science sounding yoga "journals." They can't even define the damn thing but insist on advanced statistical meta-analysis. It's a scandal. Yoga is a fun, but ultimately ineffective, activity. Just beats sitting on the couch by a bit. Those who claim otherwise have never proven these claims.
    – geoO
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 13:00

One particular yoga method based on Tummo yoga and popularized by Wim Hof has been shown to have nontrivial medical effects, such as the ability to voluntarily influence the autonomous nervous system and the innate immune system. This method involves heavy breathing techniques (to the point of severe hyperventilation) and extreme cold exposure. A scientific explanation of why this method works, is given here (full video here).

Whether modulating the immune system using such methods has useful medical applications is not clear yet. However, the method is very useful in preventing hypothermia when exposed to the cold, and it's also useful to lower the sensation of pain.

  • The question asks about a healing effect. So no. You know, heroin and marathon running also have "nontrivial medical effects," so what? Are these effects positive, peer reviewed, replicable, and were the endpoints specified in advance? No. I'm sorry, two years later and these yoga "studies" are still a joke and I'm tired of the media and other people invoking awful studies as though it proves anything at all. Yoga is usually mild exercise, depending of type, and if it makes unproven claims for itself it then goes in the trash bin of nonsense right alongside acupuncture and homeopathy.
    – geoO
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 12:41

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .