Researchers studying yoga for improved mental health say that the practice does help but there is one big caveat–yoga only “works” when you compare it to no other treatment at all.
This was a review of past studies on yoga indexed in major scientific databases between 1975 and 2015. After combing through nearly 500 medical studies, the researchers behind this one found 17 that matched their criteria. They then looked at the studies’ data on what they considered to be 4 indicators of positive mental health:
- Psychological well-being
- Life satisfaction
- Social relationships
Only 8 of the studies compared the effects of yoga to no treatment while 6 of them compared the benefits of yoga to the benefits of physical activity. Only 3 studies looked at yoga for life satisfaction and only 3 looked at yoga for improved social relationships.
Ultimately, what little data the studies revealed were disappointing. The only firm conclusion, say the scientists, is that yoga can only be proven useful when no other treatment is being used.
They do, of course, acknowledge that with so little data to work with their findings should not be trusted. They called for more (and better) research to be done on yoga for mental health in the future.
The study was published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.