National survey of yoga practitioners: mental and physical health benefits

Complement Ther Med. 2013 Aug;21(4):313-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2013.04.001. Epub 2013 May 2.


Objectives: To describe yoga practice and health characteristics of individuals who practice yoga, and to explore their beliefs regarding the effects of their yoga practice on their health.

Design: A cross-sectional design with anonymous online surveys.

Setting: 4307 randomly selected individuals from 15 US Iyengar yoga studios (n=18,160), representing 41 states; 1087 individuals responded, with 1045 (24.3%) surveys completed.

Outcome measures: Freiberg Mindfulness Inventory, Mental Health Continuum (subjective well-being), Multi-factor Screener (diet), PROMIS sleep disturbance, fatigue, and social support, International Physical Activity Questionnaire.

Results: Age: 19-87 years (M=51.7 ± 11.7), 84.2% female, 89.2% white, 87.4% well educated (≥ bachelor's degree). Mean years of yoga practice=11.4 (± 7.5). BMI=12.1-49.4 (M=23.1 ± 3.9). Levels of obesity (4.9%), smoking (2%), and fruit and vegetable consumption (M=6.1 ± 1.1) were favorable compared to national norms. 60% reported at least one chronic/serious health condition, yet most reported very good (46.3%) or excellent (38.8%) general health. Despite high levels of depression (24.8%), nearly all were moderately mentally healthy (55.2%) or flourishing (43.8%). Participants agreed yoga improved: energy (84.5%), happiness (86.5%), social relationships (67%), sleep (68.5%), and weight (57.3%), and beliefs did not differ substantially according to race or gender. The more they practiced yoga, whether in years or in amount of class or home practice, the higher their odds of believing yoga improved their health.

Conclusions: Individuals who practice yoga are not free of health concerns, but most believe their health improved because of yoga. Yoga might be beneficial for a number of populations including elderly women and those with chronic health conditions.

Keywords: Health; Survey; Yoga.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Yoga / psychology*