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Yoga’s dose-response effect

This week’s Jockology column in the Globe and Mail takes a closer look at a neat yoga study that I blogged about last month. I got in touch with Nina Moliver, the researcher responsible for the study, and looked at the data more closely:

When Nina Moliver decided to study the long-term health and wellness effects of yoga for her doctoral research in psychology, one of her professors offered some advice.

“The yoga world doesn’t need more testimonials,” the professor at Arizona’s Northcentral University told her. “The only way you’re going to communicate with the medical community is with numbers.”

Yoga science is a burgeoning discipline, with researchers probing yoga’s effects on everything from stress hormones to skin conditions. But how can a typical four- to six-week study capture the benefits of an ancient mind-body discipline that takes years, if not decades, to master? It can’t, Dr. Moliver concluded – so she decided to take a radically different approach that offers the first quantitative look at yoga’s long-term benefits. And the results of her study are promising for dedicated yoginis…. [READ ON]

One little online extra that I’ll post here is one of the graphs from the study, to give a sense of what the data looks like. Basically, you get data points filling the triangle on the upper left of the graph, while the lower right remains empty.

Here’s how I describe the data in the Globe article:

Interestingly, the most experienced yoginis weren’t necessarily happier or healthier than the happiest and healthiest non-yoginis, at least in the parameters Dr. Moliver was able to measure. “They didn’t find ‘enlightenment’ that others can’t reach,” she says. The biggest differences were at the other end of the scale, in the scarcity of unhealthy or unhappy long-time yoga practitioners.

 

When Nina Moliver decided to study the long-term health and wellness effects of yoga for her doctoral research in psychology, one of her professors offered some advice.

“The yoga world doesn’t need more testimonials,” the professor at Arizona’s Northcentral University told her. “The only way you’re going to communicate with the medical community is with numbers.”

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  1. Seth Leon
    May 31st, 2011 at 16:07 | #1

    “Dr. Moliver’s research can’t settle this question, and it can’t conclusively untangle cause from effect. After all, it’s possible that happy people do yoga, rather than the other way around, or that the discipline necessary to maintain a yoga practice over many decades is the type of character trait that leads to a happy and healthy life, with or without yoga.

    But such debates don’t undermine Dr. Moliver’s central finding. Whatever the reason, those who make a long-term commitment to yoga tend to be happier and healthier – and the benefits continue to accrue the longer you stick with it. ”

    Actually they do undermine the central finding. Consider the famous ‘marshmello’ studies of self-control in children as young as four years old. After following the children for decades, those with better self-control at age 4 scored substantially higher on a variety of life outcomes.It may not have anything to do with the yoga and everything to do with the ability to make a ‘long-term’ commitment.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am a Tai Chi instructor myself and value what could be called ‘mind-body’ practicies. I just don’t find the research especially convincing.

  1. May 31st, 2011 at 15:24 | #1