Yoga is a more effective treatment for chronic lower back pain than conventional GP care, according to the UK’s largest ever study into its benefits. The trial involved 313 people who were receiving GP care for chronic back pain. Participants were randomised to receive usual care alone, or usual care plus 12 weeks of group yoga classes specially designed for those with lower back pain. The results showed that the yoga group had better back function at three, six and 12 months compared with the usual care group. Around 60% of people in the yoga group continued with their practice after the end of the classes. (Yoga for chronic low back pain: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2011 Nov 1;155(9):569-78). In another study from the USA, 228 adults with chronic low back pain were randomised to 12 weekly classes of yoga, conventional stretching exercises or a self-care book. Yoga was found to be more effective in improving function and reducing symptoms than self-care (-2.5 versus -1.1 points on a 23-point disability scale), but not more effective than stretching (at six, 12 and 26 weeks). (A Randomized Trial Comparing Yoga, Stretching, and a Self-care Book for Chronic Low Back Pain. Arch Intern Med. 2011 Dec 12;171(22):2019-26).

Participation in yoga classes can lead to significant reduction in anxiety in women who suffer from anxiety disorders. Sixty-five women suffering from depression and anxiety were randomly assigned to an experimental or control waiting list group. The experimental group participated in twice weekly 90 minute yoga classes for two months. The average prevalence of depression in the experimental group pre- and post-yoga did not decrease significantly, but women who participated in yoga classes showed a significant decrease in state and trait anxiety compared to the control group. (Effects of yoga on depression and anxiety of women. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2009 May;15(2):102-4).