This paper evaluates the results of a longitudinal investigation of the potential benefits of yoga in a nonclinical sample of chronically stressed women (N = 116). Women undertook a twice weekly, hour-long yoga class for a period of 2 months, measuring psychological and physical indicators of health periodically. Changes in both areas were compared against a wait-list control group. The reported energy expenditure between groups was estimated to be similar, which suggests that the control group engaged in physical activities other than yoga. Of the six psychological outcomes measured, we found improvements in three. Specifically, those in the practicing yoga group experienced increases in positive affect, decreases in levels of distress and stress, as well as a decrease in waist circumference and increased flexibility. No between-group differences were found in mindfulness, well-being, and negative affect. These findings are generally consistent with an emerging literature, suggesting that yoga may provide both psychological and physiological effects that extend beyond its more obvious physical benefits, and are discussed in terms of the body’s allostatic load. These results should be considered in light of this study’s limitations, which include its small sample size, lack of an “active” control group, and female-only participants.
- Psychophysiological effects