Exploring the Therapeutic Benefits of Pranayama (Yogic Breathing): A Systematic Review

Int J Yoga. 2020 May-Aug;13(2):99-110. doi: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_37_19. Epub 2020 May 1.


Background: Pranayama (yogic breathing) has demonstrated numerous beneficial health effects. At present, there are no systematic reviews evaluating the beneficial health effects of pranayama alone as a practice.

Aim: The aim of this study is to perform a systematic review about the beneficial health effects of pranayama.

Methods: Data were obtained using a stepwise search process by searching the online PubMed, Web of Science, and SciVerse Scopus databases using keywords. Controlled clinical trials in humans, using "Pranayama" as an intervention with an appropriate control group and evaluating health-related outcomes were selected for inclusion.

Results: Initial database searching indicated 669 potentially eligible articles, of which 18 studies satisfying the inclusion/exclusion criteria were selected. All were controlled trials, of which 13 were randomized and 1 was a crossover study. Number of participants ranged from 16 to 160, and the duration of pranayama practice varied from 4 days to 6 months. Studies demonstrated a significant effect on cardiorespiratory functions, in patients with bronchial asthma, with the improvement of pulse rate, systolic blood pressure, and respiratory function measurements. Furthermore, reduction in the frequency of attacks, severity, and medication requirement was also observed, with improved quality of life (QOL). In patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, symptom, activity, and impact scores were improved. QOL improvement was also noted in cancer patients.

Conclusions: Available evidence on pranayama indicates physiological and psychological benefits. Beneficial effects were mostly observed in patients with respiratory diseases such as bronchial asthma. It also helped those with cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, further high-quality randomized trials are required to provide definitive evidence.

Keywords: Pranayama; therapeutic benefit; yogic breathing.

Publication types

  • Review