What the Research Says about Yoga

Because it combines mindfulness, deep breathing, body awareness, conscious movement, and a
focus on both strength and flexibility, yoga is remarkably useful at preventing and treating a wide
range of mental and physical health issues. Here is some of what we know from recent research:


Selected Studies:

Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Richard J. Davidson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, et al, Psychosomatic Medicine, July 2003, 65(4) 564–570.

Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Barbara Fredrickson, et al, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2008, 95(5) 1045-1062.

The effects of mindfulness meditation on cognitive processes and affect in patients with past depression. Wiveka Ramel, Philippe R. Goldin et al, Cognitive Therapy and Research, August 2004, 28(4)) 433–455.

Yoga, meditation and mind-body health. B Cahn et al, Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, 2017.

Effects of maternity yoga on the autonomic nervous system during pregnancy. M Hayase et al, Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research. 2018, 44: 1887-1895.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction for health care professionals: Results from a randomized trial. S.L. Shapiro, J.A. Astin, et al, Journal of Stress Management, 2005, 12(2), 164-176.

Workplace based mindfulness practice and inflammation: A randomized trial. William B. Malarkey, David Jarjoura, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, January 2013, 27, 145-154.

Coherence between emotional experience and physiology: Does body awareness training have an impact? Jocelyn A. Sze, Anett Gyurak, et al, Emotion, 2010.

Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention. Amishi P. Jha, Jason Krompinger, Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, June 2007, 7(2), 109–119.

Heated yoga for the treatment of anxious depression. Nauphal M, et al, American Psychological Association Annual Convention; August 3-6, 2017; Washington, D.C.

Effects of a hatha yoga intervention on depressive symptoms: Mediating roles of mindfulness and self. S Shallit, LB Hopkins, American Psychological Association Annual Convention; August 3-6, 2017; Washington, D.C.

The effects of yoga for depression. NK Vollbehr et al, Presented at: American Psychological Association Annual Convention; August 3-6, 2017; Washington, D.C.

Hatha yoga for depression: Critical review of the evidence for efficacy, plausible mechanisms of action, and directions for future research. Lisa Uebelacker et al, Journal of Psychiatric Practice, January 2010, (16)1, 22-33.

Treatment of major depressive disorder with Iyengar yoga and coherent breathing: A randomized controlled dosing study. Chris C. Streeter et al, published online:1 Mar 2017.

The benefits of yoga for musculoskeletal disorders: A systematic review of the literature. R McCaffrey et al, Journal of Yoga and Physical Therapy, 2012, 2:122.

Yoga-based intervention for carpal tunnel syndrome: A randomized trial. MS Garfinkel et al, JAMA, (1998) 280: 1601-1603. Yoga as a clinical intervention. A Ott et al, Advanced Nurse Practitioner, 2002, 10: 81-83.

Comparing yoga, exercise, and a self-care book for chronic low back pain: A randomized, controlled trial. KJ Sherman et al, Annals of Internal Medicine, 2005, 143: 849-857.

Managing osteoarthritis: Comparisons of chair yoga, Reiki, and education (pilot study). J Park et al, Holistic Nurse Practitioner, 2011, 25: 316-326.

Effect of Hatha yoga on anxiety: a meta-analysis. S Hofmann, Journal of evidence-based medicine, 2016, (9)3, 116-124.

Yoga as a Preventative and Treatment for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress. D Campbell and K Moore, (2004) International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 2004, (14)1, 53-58.

Yoga for Trauma and Related Mental Health Problems: A Meta-Review With Clinical and Service Recommendations. R Macy et al, Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 2015, (19)1, 35-57.

Better cardiovascular outcomes of combined specific Indian yoga and aerobic exercise in obese coronary patients with type 2 diabetes. Sen Naresh et al, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, March 2018, (71)11 Supplement.

Cost-effectiveness of yoga for managing musculoskeletal conditions in the workplace. N. Hartfiel et al, ,Occupational Medicine, 2017, 67:687–695.

Greater Cortical Thickness in Elderly Female Yoga Practitioners—A Cross-Sectional Study. Rui Afonso et al, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2017, (9), 201.

A community-based sleep health and yoga intervention to improve sleep outcomes. S Bertisch et al, presented at Sleep 2018.

Yoga and the Military

Research Database

The PILOTS Database
PILOTS stands for the Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress. This database is an electronic index to the worldwide literature on PTSD and other mental health consequences of exposure to traumatic events. Unlike other databases, PILOTS does not restrict its coverage to articles appearing in selected journals. It attempts to include all publications relevant to PTSD and other forms of traumatic stress, whatever their origin without disciplinary, linguistic, or geographic limitations.

The PILOTS Database is produced by the National Center for PTSD, and is electronically available to the public.  Although it is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the PILOTS database is not limited to literature on PTSD among Veterans.

Featured Research

Warrior Pose: Building Readiness Through Resilience — Yoga and Meditation
Joint Special Operations University Library, 2019

Research on Meditation Program for Psychological Stress & Well-Being
US Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2014

Mindfulness Training as Cognitive Training in High-Demand Cohorts: An Initial Study in Elite MIlitary Service Members
ScienceDirect, 2018

The Emerging Role of Mindfulness Meditation as Effective Self-Management Strategy Part 1: Clinical Implications for Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Anxiety
Military Medicine, 2016

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans: A Randomized Clinical Trial
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 2015

Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 2014

Utilizing Integrative Restoration (iRest) to Enhance the Resilience of Military Couples
Currently being written for publishing

Benefits of the Restorative Exercise and Strength Training for Operational Resilience and Excellence Yoga Program for Chronic Low Back Pain in Service Members: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Department of Defense Suicide Event Report Calendar Year 2016
The United States Department of Defense

Evidence-Based Nonpharmacologic Strategies for Comprehensive Pain Care
EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing

Military Tailored Yoga for Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Military Medicine, 2018

Mind-Body Therapy for Military veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Systematic Review
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2018

Yoga for Military Veterans with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial 
American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2017

The Safety of Yoga: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
American Journal of Epidemiology, 2015

Effects of Sensory-Enhanced Yoga on Symptoms of Combat Stress in Deployed Military Personnel
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 2012

Mindfulness Practice Leads to Increases in Regional Gray Matter Density
Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, January 2011

Stress, Inflammation and Yoga Practice
Psychosom Med: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, February 2010

Yoga as an Adjunctive Treatment for PTSD in Latina Women
Pacific University, July 2010

Effects of Yoga on Depression and Anxiety of Women
Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, June 2009

Effects of a Yoga Breath Intervention Alone and in Combination with an Exposure Therapy for PTSD and Depression in Survivors of the 2004 South-East Asia Tsunami
Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 2009

A Randomised Comparative Trial of Yoga and Relaxation to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Complementary Therapies in Medicine, June 2007

Clinical Implications of Neuroscience Research on PTSD
Annals New York Academy of Science, June 2006

Featured Articles

Whole Health in the Whole System of the Veterans Administration: How Will We Know We Have Reached This Future State?
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 25, No. S1, March 2019

How I’m Managing My Chronic Pain Without Opiods
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018

Yoga Effective at Reducing Symptoms of Depression
Medical Xpress, American Psychological Association, August 3, 2017

Study: Yoga Helps Back Pain Among Veterans
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Research & Development, July 25, 2017

Yoga Stress Relief For Soldiers
Huffington Post, Elaine Gavalas, May 17, 2012

Yoga: An Alternative Therapy for Wounded Warriors with PTSD
Warrior Care Blog, DOD Office of Warrior Care Policy, January 19, 2012

How Meditation May Change the Brain
New York Times, January 28, 2011

Harvard, Brigham Study: Yoga Eases Veterans PTSD Symptoms
WBUR.org, December 8, 2010

Yoga for Anxiety and Depression
Harvard Mental Health Newsletter, April 2009

Downloadable Resources (Studies, Articles & Interviews)

Warrior Pose: Building Readiness Through Resilience — Yoga and Meditation

Innovation: The Use of Yoga and Meditation in Healing PTSD associated with Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment

How Yoga and Meditation are Helping to Heal Warfighters and Their Families

Bridging Body & Mind: Considerations for Trauma-Informed Yoga

Yoga for Trauma Study

Yoga Therapy in Practice

Yoga and PTSD: An Interview with Bessel van der Kolk, MD

The Use of Yoga in Specialized VA PTSD Treatment Programs

Mindfulness Based Group Therapy in Veterans with PTSD

Bringing Yoga to the VA

Yoga as an Adjunctive Treatment for PTSD

101 Health Conditions Helped by Yoga