Improve Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness with Tai Chi

Improve Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness with Tai Chi


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Qigong and Tai Chi initiate the “relaxation response,” which is fostered when the mind is freed from its many distractions. This decreases the sympathetic function of the autonomic nervous system, which in turn reduces heart rate and blood pressure, dilates the blood capillaries, and optimizes the delivery of oxygen and nutrition to the tissues.”


Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of Tai Chi practice been scrutinized with empirical research. It has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. It appears to strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammationincrease the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream and improve cardiovascular function.


Because Tai Chi is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. So, with indications of so many benefits it makes sense to explore further the effects of Tai Chi training on physical and psychological well-being.


In today’s Research News article “Effect of Tai Chi Synergy T1 Exercise on Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness of Healthy Individuals.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Tai and colleagues recruited adults and randomly assigned them to either participate in 12 weeks, once a week for 60 minutes, of either Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise or a metabolically equivalent walking exercise. “Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise is an aerobic exercise composed of movements derived not only from Tai Chi exercise but also from Eight Trigrams Palms, form and will boxing, mantis boxing, Qigong, and Yoga . . . The 60-minute exercise involves 4 exercise elements: handwork, trunk work, legwork, and whole-body work. The 3 levels of exercise intensity, light, average, and heavy, are adjusted according to the tolerance and fitness of the exerciser.” The participants were measured before and after the 12 weeks of training for body size and fatness, heart rate and blood pressure, serum glucose and cholesterol, physical fitness, bone density, and cell counts of immune regulator cells, including T cells, CD3+ cells, CD19+ B cells, CD16-CD56- cytotoxic T cells, and CD16+CD56+ NK/T cells.


They found that both exercises decreased the Body Mass Index (BMI) indicating decreased body fatness and also increased parasympathetic control of heart rate and blood pressure suggesting reduced activation and greater relaxation. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise, but not walking, was found to significantly improve physical fitness and reduce blood levels of glucose and cholesterol. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise was also found to improve immune system function as indicated by significantly increased T cells, CD3+ T cells, CD19+ B cells, and CD16+CD56+NK cells and significantly decreased CD3+ cytotoxic T cells.


These results are impressive especially as the group sizes were relatively small, 26 and 23 participants. They suggest that Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise is safe and effective in improving the physical health of participants; improving body fatness, physiological relaxation, physical fitness, and immune system function. Metabolically equivalent walking exercise also improved physical health, but not to the same extent as Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise.


It is well established that exercise is important for health. There’s no question there. There is, however, a question as to what exercises may be best for which group of people. Tai Chi and similar mindful movement exercises have been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle recovery after exercise, movement and flexibility, and immune and metabolic function. The present study demonstrated that a particular form of augmented Tai Chi is very effective in improving health. It would be interesting to compare the effectgiveness of various forms of mindful movement prctices.


So, improve autonomic function, metabolism, and physical fitness with Tai Chi.


“Qigong practice activate a number of the body’s self regulating systems which are responsible for the balanced function of the tissues, organs and glands. The uptake of oxygen, as well as, oxygen metabolism is tremendously enhanced by Qigong practice.” – Roger Jahnke


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Study Summary


Hsu-Chih Tai, Yi-Sheng Chou, I-Shiang Tzeng, et al., “Effect of Tai Chi Synergy T1 Exercise on Autonomic Function, Metabolism, and Physical Fitness of Healthy Individuals,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2018, Article ID 6351938, 7 pages, 2018.



Objectives. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise is an aerobic exercise derived mainly from Tai Chi exercise. It is also derived from the Eight Trigrams Palms, form and will boxing, mantis boxing, Qigong, and Yoga, with a total of 16 sessions in 63 minutes. In this study, we investigated its effects on autonomic modulation, metabolism, immunity, and physical function in healthy practitioners. Method. We recruited a total of 26 volunteers and 23 control participants. Heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI) were recorded before and after practicing Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise and regular walking for 10 weeks, respectively. Serum glucose, cholesterol, and peripheral blood including B and T cell counts were also measured. They underwent one-minute bent-knee sit-ups, sit and reach test, and three-minute gradual step test. Results. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise enhanced parasympathetic modulation and attenuated sympathetic nerve control with increased very low frequency (VLF) and high frequency (HF) but decreased low frequency (LF) compared to the control group. Metabolic profiles including serum glucose, cholesterol, and BMI significantly improved after exercise. The exercise enhanced innate and adaptive immunity by increasing the counts of CD3+ T cells, CD19+ B cells, and CD16+CD56+ NK cells but decreasing the CD3+ cytotoxic T cell count. All monitored parameters including physical fitness and physical strength improved after the exercise. Conclusion. Tai Chi synergy T1 exercise improves autonomic modulation, body metabolism, physical fitness, and physical strength after 10 weeks of practice.


Improve Functional Fitness with Yoga

Improve Functional Fitness with Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“All forms of exercise are important for the body. The right amount of it keeps us in shape, improves longevity, and certainly keeps me sane if nobody else. Yoga is so much more than simple stretches, and it’s certainly not just for flexible people who can already wrap their legs around their heads. Yoga is about creating balance, strength, flexibility and relaxation in the body through a series of postures, movements and breathing patterns.” – Victoria Adams


We celebrate the increasing longevity of the population. But, aging is a mixed blessing. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline of the body and the brain. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. It is inevitable. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. There is some hope as there is evidence that these declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline.


Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of benefits for psychological and physical health. It is both an exercise and a mind-body practice that stresses both mental attention to present moment movements, breath control, and flexibility, range of motion, and balance. It has been shown to improve balance and flexibility in older individuals.  It is safe and can be practiced by anyone from children to seniors. Recently, there have been a number of high profile athletes who have adopted a yoga practice to improve their athletic performance. But, the lack of exercise that is often associated with aging is a major problem. It is not known whether yoga practice is as good as traditional exercise programs in improving the overall functional fitness of sedentary older adults and slow the age related physical decline.


In today’s Research News article “Yoga Is as Good as Stretching–Strengthening Exercises in Improving Functional Fitness Outcomes: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Gothe and McAuley recruited older sedentary adults over 55 years of age and randomly assigned them to engage in either 8 weeks, 3 times per week, Hatha yoga practice or stretching–strengthening exercises. The Senior Fitness test was administered before and after training. It measured strength, agility, balance, endurance, flexibility, and gait speed.


They found that both the yoga and stretching–strengthening exercise practices produced significant improvements in the older participants’ functional fitness for all measured parameters. So, yoga practice produced as good improvements in fitness as more traditional exercise. In, addition, yoga practice was found to produce significantly better leg balance than stretching–strengthening exercise. This is important as problems with balance contributes to falls in the elderly which is a major contributor to poor health and mortality.


These are important and interesting results that suggest that older individuals can choose between yoga and more traditional exercise to improve their fitness and slow their physical decline. In general, yoga practice has been found to be safe and effective and if practiced with groups it can also be more fun and tend to offset the social isolation experienced by the elderly. Hence, yoga practice may be an excellent choice to maintain fitness during aging.


So, improve functional fitness with yoga.


“Yoga promotes physical health in multiple different ways. Some of them derive from better stress management. Others come more directly from the physical movements and postures in yoga, which help promote flexibility and reduce joint pain.” – Harvard Health


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Study Summary


Gothe, N. P., & McAuley, E. (2016). Yoga Is as Good as Stretching–Strengthening Exercises in Improving Functional Fitness Outcomes: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 71(3), 406–411.




Despite yoga’s popularity, few clinical trials have employed rigorous methodology to systematically explore its functional benefits compared with more established forms of exercise. The objective of this study was to compare the functional benefits of yoga with the conventional stretching–strengthening exercises recommended for adults.


Sedentary healthy adults ( N = 118; Mage = 62.0) participated in an 8-week (three times a week for 1 hour) randomized controlled trial, which consisted of a Hatha yoga group ( n = 61) and a stretching–strengthening exercise group ( n = 57). Standardized functional fitness tests assessing balance, strength, flexibility, and mobility were administered at baseline and postintervention.


A repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance showed a significant time effect for measures of balance [ F (3,18) = 4.88, p < .01, partial η 2 = .45], strength [ F (2,19) = 15.37, p < .001, partial η 2 = .62], flexibility [ F (4,17) = 8.86, p < .001, partial η 2 = .68], and mobility [ F (2,19) = 8.54, p < .002, partial η 2= .47]. Both groups showed significant improvements on measures of balance (left–right leg and four square step); strength (chair stands and arm curls); flexibility (back scratch and sit-and-reach); and mobility (gait speed and 8-feet up and go), with partial η 2 ranging from .05 to .47.


These data suggest that regular yoga practice is just as effective as stretching–strengthening exercises in improving functional fitness. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine functional benefits of yoga in comparison with stretching–strengthening exercises in sedentary, healthy, community-dwelling older adults. These findings have clinical implications as yoga is a more amenable form of exercise than strengthening exercises as it requires minimal equipment and can be adapted for individuals with lower levels of functioning or disabilities.


Improve Arthritis with Qigong

Improve Arthritis with Qigong


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Qigong techniques are simple and do not need to be carried out precisely to bring about its great benefits. Qigong practice is known for preventing disease, strengthening immunity and producing better health and well-being. However it is under-appreciated, even in China, that Qigong therapy can be effective for relieving pain and treating arthritis.” – Kellen Chia


Arthritis is a chronic disease that most commonly affects the joints. There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Depending on the type of arthritis symptoms may include pain, stiffness, swelling, redness, and decreased range of motion. It affects an estimated 52.5 million adults in the United States. It is associated with aging as arthritis occurs in only 7% of adults ages 18–44, while 30% adults ages 45–64 are affected, and 50% of adults ages 65 or older. The pain, stiffness, and lack of mobility associate with arthritis produce fatigue and markedly reduce the quality of life of the sufferers. Arthritis can have very negative psychological effects diminishing the individual’s self-image and may lead to depression, isolation, and withdrawal from friends and social activities Arthritis reduces the individual’s ability to function at work and may require modifications of work activities which can lead to financial difficulties. It even affects the individual’s physical appearance. In addition, due to complications associated with rheumatoid arthritis, particularly cardiovascular disease, the lifespan for people with rheumatoid arthritis may be shortened by 10 years.


It is obvious that there is a need for a safe and effective treatment to help rheumatoid arthritis sufferers cope with the disease and its consequences. Increasing exercise has been shown to increase flexibility and mobility but many form of exercise are difficult for the arthritis sufferer to engage in and many drop out. But all that may be needed is gentle movements of the joints. Qigong or Tai Chi training are designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. They have been shown to have many physical and psychological benefits, especially for the elderly. Because They are not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and are safe, having no appreciable side effects, they are appropriate for an elderly population. So, it would seem that Qigong or Tai Chi practice would be well suited to treat arthritis in seniors.


In today’s Research News article “Qigong Exercise and Arthritis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Marks reviewed and summarized the published research on the effectiveness of Qigong practice for the treatment of arthritis. He found that Qigong practice produced significant improvements in the musculoskeletal system including increased strength, joint flexibility, posture, balance motor function, and motor coordination, and improvements in quality of life and cognitive function. In addition, the research reported decreased pain, fatigue, and blood pressure and improved immune function, metabolic function, circulation, aerobic capacity, and reduced falls, improved psychological health, mood, and sleep.


These are impressive results. Scientific research suggests that Qigong practice produces  widespread improvements in mental and physical health in arthritis sufferers. In addition, it is inexpensive, convenient, appropriate for individuals of all ages and health condition and is safe to practice, making it an almost ideal treatment for the symptoms of arthritis.


So, improve arthritis with Qigong.


“Qigong focuses on relaxing the body, which over time, allows the joints and muscles to loosen up, improving the circulation of fluids and blood. The practice focuses on rebuilding overall health and strengthening the spirit, while encouraging one to change the way one looks at life in general, and at the illness affecting you.” – 1MD


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This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Ray Marks. Qigong Exercise and Arthritis. Medicines (Basel) 2017 Dec; 4(4): 71. Published online 2017 Sep 27. doi: 10.3390/medicines4040071



Background: Arthritis is a chronic condition resulting in considerable disability, particularly in later life. Aims: The first aim of this review was to summarize and synthesize the research base concerning the use of Qigong exercises as a possible adjunctive strategy for promoting well-being among adults with arthritis. A second was to provide related intervention directives for health professionals working or who are likely to work with this population in the future. Methods: Material specifically focusing on examining the nature of Qigong for minimizing arthritis disability, pain and dependence and for improving life quality was sought. Results: Collectively, despite almost no attention to this topic, available data reveal that while more research is indicated, Qigong exercises—practiced widely in China for many centuries as an exercise form, mind-body and relaxation technique—may be very useful as an intervention strategy for adults with different forms of painful disabling arthritis. Conclusion: Health professionals working with people who have chronic arthritis can safely recommend these exercises to most adults with this condition with the expectation they will heighten the life quality of the individual, while reducing pain and depression in adults with this condition.

Improve Physical Condition in Dialysis Patients with Tai Chi


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“One of the best features of tai chi and qi gong is that they can be adapted to fit just about any fitness level. The gentle flowing low-impact movements are easy on your joints if you have arthritis. You can even do them seated or in a wheelchair if needed.” – Jodi Helmer


End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is a serious and all too common medical problem that results from a total and permanent failure of the kidneys. As a result, the body retains fluid and harmful wastes build up. Treatment, usually dialysis, is required to replace the work of the failed kidneys. Kidney dialysis uses a machine to filter harmful wastes, salt, and excess fluid from your blood. This restores the blood to a normal, healthy balance. Without dialysis or a kidney transplant the ESRD patient cannot survive It is estimated that ESRD occurs in more than 650,000 patients per year in the United States and is increasing by 5% per year. Those who live with ESRD are 1% of the U.S. Medicare population but account for 7% of the Medicare budget. Worldwide there are an estimated 2 million ESRD patients.


End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is frequently accompanied by a number of other serious diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Making matters worse is the fact that ESRD patients are most often sedentary. Moderate exercise, by improving cardiovascular performance and lowering insulin resistance, can be very helpful in preventing or coping with these comorbidities. But, great care must be used with exercise for the compromised ESRD patients.


Tai Chi training is designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. It has been shown to have psychological and physical benefits particularly for the elderly. Because it is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for individuals with compromising conditions such as ESRD. So, it would seem that tai chi practice would be well suited as an exercise for dialysis patients.


In today’s Research News article “Evaluation of Exercise Tolerance in Dialysis Patients Performing Tai Chi Training: Preliminary Study.” See:

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

Dziubek and colleagues provided dialysis patients with tai chi training for 60 minutes, twice a week for 6-months. They were closely monitored during all sessions for blood pressure. Heart rate was also measured to insure it was maintained at 50% or less of the maximal heart rate appropriate for the patients age. At the beginning and end of training a 6-minute walk test was performed on a treadmill and a stress test for oxygen uptake was performed on an exercise bicycle.


They found that after tai chi training the patients walked significantly further and reported less fatigue on the 6-minute treadmill walk and lasted longer on the bicycle stress test with no differences in heart rate or blood pressure. Hence, tai chi training appeared to improve the physical condition of the patients. It should be noted that there wasn’t a comparison condition or control group. So, it is not known if the patients would have improved without training and if other forms of exercise might be superior. Further research is needed to clarify these issues. The results though show that tai chi training is a safe and effective exercise for ESRD patients on dialysis. This is important as the exercise is needed to help maintain the health of these compromised patients.


So, improve physical condition in dialysis patients with tai chi.


“Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medicationin motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems.” – Harvard Health Blog


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+


Study Summary

Dziubek, W., Bulińska, K., Kusztal, M., Kowalska, J., Rogowski, Ł., Zembroń-Łacny, A., … Woźniewski, M. (2016). Evaluation of Exercise Tolerance in Dialysis Patients Performing Tai Chi Training: Preliminary Study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2016, 5672580.



Introduction. Patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) have poor physical performance and exercise capacity due to frequent dialysis treatments. Tai Chi exercises can be very useful in the area of rehabilitation of people with ESRD. Objectives. The aim of the study was to assess exercise capacity in ESRD patients participating in 6-month Tai Chi training.

Patients and Methods. Twenty dialysis patients from Wroclaw took part in the training; at the end of the project, 14 patients remained (age 69.2 ± 8.6 years). A 6-minute walk test (6MWT) and spiroergometry were performed at the beginning and after 6 months of training.

Results. After 6 months of Tai Chi, significant improvements were recorded in mean distance in the 6MWT (387.89 versus 436.36 m), rate of perceived exertion (7.4 versus 4.7), and spiroergometry (8.71 versus 10.08 min).

Conclusions. In the ESRD patients taking part in Tai Chi training, a definite improvement in exercise tolerance was recorded after the 6-month training. Tai Chi exercises conducted on days without dialysis can be an effective and interesting form of rehabilitation for patients, offering them a chance for a better quality of life and fewer falls and hospitalisations that are the result of it.


Improve Fitness in Visually Impaired Children with Yoga

yoga visual impairment2 Mohnaty

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“As those of us with good vision can imagine, the loss of something that helps the function of our body and mind can cause a lot of stress, depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation. Well, guess what has been proven to help those who can see with the similar symptoms? Yep, yoga.” – Julie Phillips-Turner


Visual impairment is quite common among children and adolescents. “According to the 2014 American Community Survey, there are approximately 543,893 children with vision difficulty in the U.S. According to the 2014 ACS, there are 261,413 girls and 282,480 boys under the age of 18 that have vision difficulty in the U.S.” – American Foundation for the Blind. Due to the impaired vision and its impact on movements and physical activities, the visually impaired children generally have lower fitness levels, including deficits in muscular strength and balance.


Yoga practice has been found to improve muscular strength and balance in adults with visual impairment. In today’s Research News article “Yoga Practice Increases Minimum Muscular Fitness in Children with Visual Impairment.” See:

or below or view the full text of the study at:

Mohnaty and colleagues examine the effectiveness of yoga practice to improve muscular strength in 9-16-year old children. They randomly assigned students at a school for the blind to either a yoga practice group or a wait-list control group. The yoga practice consisted of breathing exercises, loosening practices, postures, relaxation and meditation and was practiced for 60 minutes, 5 days per week for 16 weeks. The wait-list control group participated in a vocational training program instead of yoga practice.


The students were assessed before during and after the 16-week practice period with the Kraus-Weber test of muscular fitness which includes assessments of abdominal with psoas muscles, upper abdominal without psoas muscles, lower abdominal with psoas muscle, upper back muscles, lower back muscles and back and hamstrings. the Kraus-Weber test is a pass or fail test and if the student failed on any of its six components then they were considered as failing the whole test. They found that by the end of the 16-week practice period that the yoga group had significantly fewer failures of the Kraus-Weber test than the control group. Before practice only 12.2% of the children in the yoga group passed the test. But, by the end of the practice period 97.6% of the children passed while only 64.1% of the control group passed.


The study provides clear evidence that practicing yoga can improve muscular fitness in visually impaired children. This is important as the lack of fitness has health consequences for the children and can lead to increased levels of falls and injuries. In addition, yoga practice is known to be safe and to have a wide variety of physical and psychological benefits.


So, improve fitness in visually impaired children with yoga.


“It’s hard at first, and then they get it. We use the edge of the mat for alignment during the practice. We also do the same sequence of poses each week, which does a lot of work on the floor, and some standing poses, including tree pose. The key is to go slowly and use ujaii breath to help center their weight, and stabilize while keeping their attention inward.” Pam Jeter


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Mohanty, S., Venkata Ramana Murty, P., Pradhan, B., & Hankey, A. (2015). Yoga Practice Increases Minimum Muscular Fitness in Children with Visual Impairment. Journal of Caring Sciences, 4(4), 253–263.



Introduction: Muscle strength, a component for balance, gait and functional mobility is vital for children with visual impairment. Yoga has frequently been demonstrated to improve physical and mental fitness in children. This study aimed to assess the effect of 16 weeks yoga training on muscular fitness in children with visual impairment.

Methods: This was a wait-listed two-armed-matched case–control study. Eighty (41 yoga, 39 control) visual impairment students of both genders aged 9-16 years matched on age, gender and degree of blindness were assessed at pre, mid (after 8 weeks) and post (after 16 weeks) yoga intervention using the Kraus-Weber test.

Results: The percentage of students passed in yoga group were 12.2%, 43.9% and 68.3% whereas percentages in the control group were 23.1%, 30.8% and 30.8% in pre, mid, and post tests respectively. McNemar test showed significant differences between pre and mid, mid and post in the yoga group while those parameters were not significantly different in the control group. Yoga therapy seemed to have considerable benefits for the children’s muscular fitness.

Conclusion: The study suggests that yoga have considerable benefits for improvement of fitness level in children with visual impairment and may be recommended as and effective, alternative, inexpensive low risk training activity option for them.


Improve Physical Well-being with Bikram Yoga

Yoga Bikram Hewett2

“My system works, as long as people let me do my job my way. It is not just the sequence, it is how you do it: the timing, the mirrors, the temperature, the carpet. But if people only do it 99% right, it is 100% wrong. When someone tries to mess with it, the people won’t get the yoga benefits.”Bikram Choudhury


Yoga practice has been shown to improve physical well-being (see But, there are a large number of different types of yoga practice including Ansura, Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Hot Yoga, Iyengar, Jivamukti, Kripalu, Kundalini, Prenatal, Restorative, Viniypga, Vinyasa, and yin. One problem with the research on yoga effects is that different researchers use different types of yoga. So, it is difficult to compare results. In addition, the studies do not establish the relative effectiveness of each type of yoga.


Bikram Yoga is somewhat unique in that it employs a set sequence of 26 poses (asanas) and two breathing exercises. It is practiced in a heated environment (105°F, 40.6°C, 40% humidity) and there is a unique programmed instructional dialogue. The hot environment is thought to soften the muscles making them more pliable and loosen the joints making them more flexible allowing the practitioner to go deeper into poses. The sweating that occurs is thought to help remove toxins and impurities.


In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Bikram Yoga on Health: Critical Review and Clinical Trial Recommendations”

Hewett and colleagues review the published research on the effectiveness of Bikram Yoga on physical well-being. They report that in terms of physical fitness, Bikram Yoga increases lower body range of motion, balance, isometric dead-lift strength, isometric maximal voluntary contraction, total hip bone density, and balance compared to the control group. It appears to improve cardiovascular fitness, increasing carotid artery compliance and decreasing beta-stiffness, and HDL and total cholesterol. In overweight and obese practitioners Bikram Yoga improved a number of metabolic markers including blood lipids, insulin resistance, and glucose tolerance. Psychologically, this form of yoga appears to reduce perceived stress and increase mindfulness.


These are important findings suggesting that Bikram Yoga is effective in improving fitness, cardiovascular, health, and psychological well-being. The reviewed research studies were limited and did not investigate many other physical and mental parameters and did not investigate Bikram Yoga’s applicability to the treatment of diseases. Unfortunately, the research studies reviewed did not compare Bikram Yoga to other forms of yoga, so it is not known what if any of the reported benefits are specific to Bikram Yoga and which are in common with other practices. This review is an important first step in documenting the effects of Bikram Yoga which are shown to be widely beneficial. It is clear that much more research is warranted comparing the effects of the different forms of practice.


Regardless, the results are clear that you can improve well-being with Bikram Yoga.


“To sweat is to pray, to make an offering of your innermost self. Sweat is holy water, prayer beads, pearls of liquid that release your past. Sweat is an ancient and universal form of self healing, whether done in the gym, the sauna, or the sweat lodge … The more you sweat, the more you pray. The more you pray, the closer you come to ecstasy.”  – Gabrielle Roth
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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