Yoga originated thousands of years ago in India as an integrated physical, mental, and spiritual practice based on ancient Vedic philosophy, and is connected to Ayurveda, the system of traditional Indian medicine. During the 20th century, yoga became increasingly recognised outside India, and over the past decades it has continued to grow in popularity worldwide as system for promoting health and well-being. While modern yoga often focuses on physical poses and is sometimes thought of as a type of exercise, the practice usually incorporates one or more of the mental or spiritual elements that are traditionally part of yoga, such as relaxation, concentration, or meditation. For this reason, yoga is considered a mind-body exercise.
There are currently many different types or schools of yoga, each with a different emphasis on and approach to practice. It is widely thought that some of these yoga practices may help treat or prevent physical or mental illnesses, and improve overall quality of life. There is therefore a need for information on the potential health benefits and harms of yoga.
This Cochrane Library Special Collection of systematic reviews on yoga focuses on reviews evaluating the effectiveness of yoga for improving physical or mental symptoms and quality of life in a range of health conditions. It has been developed to bring the best available evidence on the health-related effects of yoga to the attention of the general public, patients, health professionals, and other decision makers, and to inform choices on the use of yoga to improve health and well-being.
This Special Collection has been collated by L Susan Wieland of the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field, with reviews prepared by the authors and editors of several Cochrane groups (see Acknowledgements).
This Special Collection is also available in Spanish: Yoga para mejorar la salud y el bienestar, hosted by Cochrane Iberoamérica.