Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 624758, 2 pages

Yoga and Rehabilitation: Physical, Psychological, and Social

1Patanjali Research Foundation, Haridwar, India
2Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, 05651-901 São Paulo, SP, Brazil
3Department of Psychobiology, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, 04023-062 São Paulo, SP, Brazil
4Department of Internal Medicine, University of Pavia, Italy
5Folkhälsan Research Center, University of Helsinki, Finland
6Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Received 30 September 2013; Accepted 30 September 2013

Copyright © 2013 Shirley Telles et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Yoga was intended for spiritual evolution [1], but increasingly nowadays it is used for its incidental benefits such as stress reduction and managing lifestyle related disorders. Despite its Indian origin, the number of yoga practitioners in Western society is growing: in the United States, for example, a national survey showed that 6.1% of the adults were practicing yoga in 2007 [2].

Apart from the benefits of Yoga practice in preventing and managing disease, yoga has several applications in rehabilitation (rehabilitare = to restore, in Latin). Rehabilitation is of different types such as (i) physical, (ii) psychological, and (iii) social. Yoga, as a way of life, has helped persons with physical disorders to return to health, an example being coronary artery disease [3, 4]. Other conditions which have benefitted from yoga practice include stroke after cerebrovascular accidents [5] and patients with heart failure, in whom exercise capacity, oxygen saturation, and parasympathetic activity were restored [6, 7]. Yoga breathing or pranayama was especially beneficial for COPD [8]. Practicing yoga has also been used with good results in degenerative disorders such as idiopathic Parkinson’s syndrome [9] and muscular dystrophy [10].

With regard to psychological rehabilitation, yoga practice has helped restore the psychological function and mental equilibrium in persons with posttraumatic stress disorder [11] and even certain psychotic conditions [12].

Finally, yoga practice can help people who are at a disadvantage because of their social circumstances. This includes persons in jail [13], those from the “inner city” [14], children in remand homes [15, 16], and older people living in community centers [17, 18]. Social rehabilitation includes dimensions of physical and psychological rehabilitation.

Despite the research cited above, there is a continued need for research. A summary of yoga reviews pointed to the importance of larger-scale, rigorous research with higher methodological quality and adequate control groups.

Additionally, it should be stressed that although research should be aimed at yoga as a whole (hence including postures as well as meditation, respiratory practices, diet, and other aspects) this is obviously very complex, as the contribution of many different aspects cannot be easily identified, and confounding factors may play a decisive role. Also, the complexity and variety of different yoga techniques make a comparison between different studies very difficult. On the other hand, a “reductionist” approach seems to be more feasible from a scientific point of view, due to an easier separation of the specific effects of a single intervention (e.g., the analysis of one posture or the analysis of a single type of pranayama), but it is obviously at the risk of missing the whole effect of yoga. As a typical example, if one measures only the energy expenditure of a single yoga session, one may conclude that yoga will be of no use to lose weight, but other crucial effects of yoga related to weight control could be missed, such as the attention to diet and possibly a direct effect of pranayama on the hypothalamus, through which yoga does actually lead to weight loss. Thus, a careful balance between these opposite aspects needs to be taken into account when planning research on yoga.

The analyzed reviews suggested a number of areas where yoga may be beneficial, but more research is required for them to really establish such benefits. Nevertheless, some meta-analyses indicated that there are several randomized clinical trials of relatively high quality indicating beneficial effects of yoga for pain-associated disability and mental health [8]. Considering the large number of different yoga techniques and schools of yoga, it is also important for researchers to describe, in detail, the specific method used in a given study.

Yoga is worth investigating as it is relatively cost-effective, its practices can be adapted for different groups of patients, and if well oriented, the risks of side effects are very low. We hope that this special issue will give new insights for the development of novel, well-designed studies in the field of yoga and rehabilitation.

Shirley Telles
Elisa Kozasa
Luciano Bernardi
Marc Cohen


  1. G. Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition, Hohm Press, Prescott, Ariz, USA, 3rd edition, 2002.
  2. P. M. Barnes, B. Bloom, and R. L. Nahin, “Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007,” National Health Statistics Reports 12, National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, Md, USA, 2008. View at Google Scholar
  3. D. Ornish, S. E. Brown, L. W. Scherwitz et al., “Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease?” The Lancet, vol. 336, no. 8708, pp. 129–133, 1990. View at Publisher · View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  4. S. C. Manchanda, R. Narang, K. S. Reddy et al., “Retardation of coronary atherosclerosis with yoga lifestyle intervention,” Journal of Association of Physicians of India, vol. 48, no. 7, pp. 687–694, 2000. View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  5. A. A. Schmid, M. Van Puymbroeck, P. A. Altenburger et al., “Poststroke balance improves with yoga: a pilot study,” Stroke, vol. 43, no. 9, pp. 2402–2407, 2012. View at Google Scholar
  6. L. Bernardi, C. Porta, L. Spicuzza et al., “Slow breathing increases arterial baroreflex sensitivity in patients with chronic heart failure,” Circulation, vol. 105, no. 2, pp. 143–145, 2002. View at Publisher · View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  7. L. Bernardi, G. Spadacini, J. Bellwon, R. Hajric, H. Roskamm, and A. W. Frey, “Effect of breathing rate on oxygen saturation and exercise performance in chronic heart failure,” The Lancet, vol. 351, no. 9112, pp. 1308–1311, 1998. View at Publisher · View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  8. T. Raupach, F. Bahr, P. Herrmann et al., “Slow breathing reduces sympathoexcitation in COPD,” European Respiratory Journal, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 387–392, 2008. View at Publisher · View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  9. E. Hall, G. Verheyden, and A. Ashburn, “Effect of a yoga programme on an individual with Parkinson's disease: a single-subject design,” Disability and Rehabilitation, vol. 33, no. 15-16, pp. 1483–1489, 2011. View at Publisher · View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  10. S. Telles, A. Balkrishna, and K. Maharana, “Effect of yoga and ayurveda on duchenne muscular dystrophy,” Indian Journal of Palliative Care, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 169–170, 2011. View at Publisher · View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  11. S. Telles, N. Singh, M. Joshi, and A. Balkrishna, “Post traumatic stress symptoms and heart rate variability in Bihar flood survivors following yoga: a randomized controlled study,” BMC Psychiatry, vol. 10, article 18, 2010. View at Publisher · View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  12. S. Varambally, S. Vidyendaran, M. Sajjanar et al., “Yoga-based intervention for caregivers of outpatients with psychosis: a randomized controlled pilot study,” Asian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 141–145, 2013. View at Google Scholar
  13. S. V. Vyavahare, “Yoga for jail inmates,” in Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Frontiers in Yoga Research and Applications, VKYRF, Bangalore, India, December 1991.
  14. D. L. Berger, E. J. Silver, and R. E. K. Stein, “Effects of yoga on inner-city children's well-being: a pilot study,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 36–42, 2009. View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  15. S. Telles, S. Narendran, P. Raghuraj, R. Nagarathna, and H. R. Nagendra, “Comparison of changes in autonomic and respiratory parameters of girls after Yoga and games at a community home,” Perceptual and Motor Skills, vol. 84, no. 1, pp. 251–257, 1997. View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  16. P. Raghuraj and S. Telles, “Muscle power, dexterity skill and visual perception in community home girls trained in yoga or sports and in regular school girls,” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 409–415, 1997. View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  17. M. N. Krishnamurthy and S. Telles, “Assessing depression following two ancient Indian interventions: effects of Yoga and Ayurveda on older adults in a residential home,” Journal of Gerontological Nursing, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 17–23, 2007. View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
  18. N. K. Manjunath and S. Telles, “Influence of Yoga & Ayurveda on self-rated sleep in a geriatic population,” Indian Journal of Medical Research, vol. 121, no. 5, pp. 683–690, 2005. View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus