What Yoga Can and Can't Do for You

A stress-buster, it can also help with anxiety, depression, back pain, and other ills, experts say

TUESDAY, Dec. 31, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Results from medical research on yoga are mixed, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, though the findings tend to be more positive than negative.

Yoga has been found to improve quality of life and reduce stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and back pain. It has also been found to lower heart rate and blood pressure. And, perhaps not surprisingly, yoga has been shown to improve fitness, strength, and flexibility, according to the alternative medicine center. Research has not found yoga to be helpful for asthma. And, the research on arthritis has produced various results so, according to the center, the jury is still out on whether yoga may be helpful for arthritis.

Health experts note, however, that yoga should be considered a complementary therapy, not a replacement for standard therapy. Yoga is generally very safe to try although some people -- including pregnant women and those with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or sciatica -- may need to modify poses to reduce the chance of injury.

"One of the issues in this country is that people think of yoga only as exercise and try to do the most physically hard poses possible," Ruby Roy, M.D., a chronic disease physician at LaRabida Children's Hospital in Chicago who's also a certified yoga instructor, told HealthDay. "That may or may not help you, but it also could hurt you," she noted.

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