Those of us who practice yoga find ourselves acting in a myriad of small ways that are part of a healthier lifestyle. Yoga itself requires such effort that it doesn’t make sense to blow it through other things we do.
It turns out, though, that one particular form of yoga – home practice – is associated with even more healthy behaviors, according to a new study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
These findings suggest that the magic of yoga may be in taking responsibility for ourselves on all levels. It just makes sense: The person willing to do the heavy lifting of a home practice also will put into practice the toils of healthy behaviors.
The study, led by Alyson Ross, Ph.D., registered nurse, and certified Iyengar yoga teacher, sought to examine the relationship between yoga practice and well-being. Some 1,045 Iyengar yoga practitioners responded from among than 4,000 people randomly selected nationwide. The researchers worked with 15 Iyengar studios nationwide, including the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles and its affiliate Iyengar Yoga Association of Southern California, which spans from Santa Barbara south to San Diego and east to Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Students answered questions about differing aspects of practice – at home, in class, through meditation, with breath control, through philosophy study – and about practitioners’ lifestyles – mindfulness, subjective well-bring, body mass index, fruit and vegetable consumption, sleep disturbance and fatigue.
The authors note that although class participation is vital to the learning process, "it did not predict any aspects of health." All components of home practice were predictors of at least one healthy behavior, making that more important than time spent in class or years of experience. This might comfort both those newer to yoga practice and those who may feel guilty at not getting to class more often.
The authors of the study note that their conclusions can be generalized only to Iyengar practitioners. They note also, however, just as “styles of yoga differ in what components of yoga practice are emphasized”, “some styles of yoga may be better suited for certain individuals” noting differences in temperament and physical condition.
One persistent quality of Iyengar teaching is the emphasis on individual practice as the foundation for everything else. Not all styles stress this.
Ross said in an e-mail that a second paper compares practitioners in the study to national norms in health outcomes such as obesity, fruit and vegetable consumption, sleep, physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking, and mental health. This paper is awaiting acceptance for publication.
Read the study: The full article is available at www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/983258/
Try Iyengar yoga: Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles, Yoga Works locations throughout Los Angeles and in Orange County, or individual teachers through Iyengar Yoga Association of Southern California.