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Is yoga a sun salutation, or a downward-facing dog?

Edzard Ernst looks at the evidence for the health benefits of yoga

There is an almost limitless array of CAMs which I have so far never mentioned on this blog. Yoga is one of them.

One might suggest that the reason for not mentioning it is the lack of evidence. But this suspicion would be wrong. There is plenty of data.

We recently published an overview of systematic reviews of yoga for various conditions [1]. We found a total of 21 such publications. The indications included cancer, diabetes, depression, anxiety, back pain, any pain syndromes, cardiovascular diseases and risk factors, asthma, stroke, menopause and epilepsy. I am certain that most readers will be as surprised as we were by the list. Is yoga a panacea?

Sadly not, positive conclusions were only drawn for depression and cardiovascular risk reduction. Many reviews were poor quality and so were the primary studies they included.

So there you are, if I don’t mention a particular form of CAM, it might simply be due to fact that existing evidence is not much to write home about.

Professor Edzard Ernst is professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter

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