Fans of yoga therapy have yet to win over doctors

Paris: Yoga practitioners often tout the unique health benefits of the ancient discipline — from relieving stress and pain to improving vascular health — but most doctors remain sceptical in the absence of hard proof.
The International Journal of Yoga Therapy (IJYT) published last year highlighted dozens of studies purporting to show that the practice can help people with eating disorders, soon-to-be moms and women with cancer-related symptoms.
Nevertheless, even proponents acknowledge there is little consensus on what might constitute specifically therapeutic stretches and poses. “The lack of standardisation of yoga practices, and the fact that many yoga tools have filtered out into the broader world, begs the important question of what constitutes yoga therapy,” two practitioners, Matthew Taylor and Timothy McCall, wrote in their lead essay for the IJYT. Most studies which have been carried out, however, including peer-reviewed findings in journals like The Lancet or JAMA, have failed to pass muster with doctors and scientists.
While they point to research showing that yoga can indeed improve health, nothing appears to suggest such benefits could not be had through walking, swimming or other exercises and sports.
“There is evidence that doing yoga has specific health benefits. However, those benefits are likely not specific to yoga and are universal to exercise,” the American doctor Steven Novella wrote last October on the website Science-based Medicine.
And Novella added that “all of the mystical and pseudo-scientific (trappings) that often accompanies yoga is counterproductive”.