A research report titled “Frequency of Yoga Practice Predicts Health: Results of a National Survey of Yoga Practitioners” suggests that home yoga practice is key to a healthier diet, exercise and improved mental health. Home practice of yoga is also a better predictor of health than years of class practice or class frequency.

Tosca Braun, a 200-hour Kripalu Yoga instructor and 500-hour Integrative Yoga Therapist notes, “In my own experience, home practice is sweetly satisfying. It can also become stale and rigid without continued inspiration from teachers or attendance at classes or retreats. Hitting the mat can sometimes become another box to check off, with my mind racing through the day’s events as I lose the anchors of body and breath. At other times, the strength or motivation to practice may desert me, due to life’s emotional upheavals. It is then that I am most likely to attend class or seek community, where I find the support, inspiration and belonging I have longed for in my home practice. When I return to my home yoga mat, it is that much sweeter for having been touched by sangha and a skillful teacher’s reminder to inhabit my body and breath with compassionate presence.”

Yoga Promises Healthier Life

According to the report, Yoga shows promise as an intervention targeting a number of outcomes associated with lifestyle-related health conditions including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cancer. While aerobic exercise long has been a valuable tool in combating these health conditions, a review of clinical trials comparing exercise to yoga found yoga to be equal or superior to aerobic exercise in improving a number of outcomes associated with chronic health conditions.

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Home Practice is Key

The frequency of home practice appears to be very important— more important than how long an individual has been practicing or how many classes one takes. It’s not enough simply to learn how to do healthy behaviors. Rather, healthy behaviors must be incorporated into one’s daily life. While these findings suggest that individuals will only glean benefits from yoga practice that are proportional to the energy they are willing to invest in making it a part of their lives, the findings also suggest that they do not have to practice for years in order to reap the rewards.

What one practices, be it the different types of physical poses, breath work, or meditation, is important because the different aspects of yoga practice may well have different health benefits.

From: Alyson Ross, Erika Friedmann, Margaret Bevans, and Sue Thomas, “Frequency of Yoga Practice Predicts Health: Results of a National Survey of Yoga Practitioners,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, Article ID 983258, 10 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/983258