Objective: A systematic review was done of the evidence on yoga for improving balance.
Design: Relevant articles and reviews were identified in major databases (PubMed, MEDLINE(®), IndMed, Web of Knowledge, EMBASE, EBSCO, Science Direct, and Google Scholar), and their reference lists searched. Key search words were yoga, balance, proprioception, falling, fear of falling, and falls. Included studies were peer-reviewed articles published in English before June 2012, using healthy populations. All yoga styles and study designs were included. Two (2) raters individually rated study quality using the Downs & Black (DB) checklist. Final scores were achieved by consensus. Achievable scores ranged from 0 to 27. Effect size (ES) was calculated where possible.
Results: Fifteen (15) of 152 studies (age range 10-93, n=688) met the inclusion criteria: 5 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 4 quasi-experimental, 2 cross-sectional, and 4 single-group designs. DB scores ranged from 10 to 24 (RCTs), 14-19 (quasi-experimental), 6-12 (cross-sectional), and 11-20 (single group). Studies varied by yoga style, frequency of practice, and duration. Eleven (11) studies found positive results (p<0.05) on at least one balance outcome. ES ranged from -0.765 to 2.71 (for 8 studies) and was not associated with DB score.
Conclusions: Yoga may have a beneficial effect on balance, but variable study design and poor reporting quality obscure the results. Balance as an outcome is underutilized, and more probing measures are needed.