Does Yoga Improve Well-Being?

Yoga is a popular form of exercise that can strengthen one physically and mentally. It is used to improve flexibility, reduce stress, and address many physical and mental health challenges. Although the benefits of yoga have proven numerous, it is unclear whether or not yoga can improve overall well-being in those most at risk for declines in this area. Specifically, does yoga improve well-being in women over the age of 45? This was the question at the core of a study conducted by Nina Moliver of the School of Behavioral and Health Sciences at North Central University in Arizona. Moliver wanted to extend the current evidence how positive the effects of yoga can be by exploring if these effects carry over to overall well-being in older women.

As women age, their physical health can deteriorate, putting quality of life at risk. Also, social networks shift, children leave home, spouses may leave or pass away, and women may find themselves dealing with emotional issues that can cause stress and vulnerability, such as depression, anxiety, and fear. Therefore, Moliver wanted to know if practicing yoga lessened these conditions and protected women from mental and physical health problems by improving overall well-being. For her study, Moliver interviewed 211 women between the ages of 45 to 80 who regularly practiced yoga. She assessed several measures and evaluated how often they practiced yoga and how long they had been doing so. She also looked at marital status and other factors relating to subjective well-being (SWB).

Moliver found that yoga had a significantly positive effect on all aspects of SWB. In particular, the longer and more often that the women engaged in yoga, the higher levels of positivity, vitality, and overall sense of transcendence they had. They also had the lowest rates of anxiety, sadness, and irritability. Moliver added, “For total lifetime hours of yoga practice, the strongest effect was shown for positive psychological attitudes.” The women who had been doing yoga for years had higher SWB than those who had just begun. Frequency was also an important indication of SWB. Another interesting finding was the correlation between processed food and SWB. The women who consumed less processed food had the highest SWB. For women at risk for psychological problems, beginning and maintaining a yoga practice could offer the opportunity to reduce the risk of mental as well as physical health conditions in the future.

Moliver, N., et al. Yoga experience as a predictor of psychological wellness in women over 45 years. International Journal of Yoga 6.1 (2013): 11-9. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

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  • Theodore

    March 5th, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    To me, this is a which came first, the chicken or the egg question. Do women who are physically and mentally healthy practice yoga or are women physically and mentally healthy because they practice yoga? Maybe rather than the yoga creating the effects, maybe the ones with SWB seek out yoga. The same can be said for the processed food issue.

  • Wally

    March 5th, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    I have always wanted to try yoga no time like the present i guess!

  • Track H

    March 5th, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    I am a 50 something woman who’s been with the same man since I was 16 years old. Just the thought of living without him is enough to make me extremely anxious. I think if I outlived him I’d be a complete and total lost mess. So, I think this article is very timely for me. It sounds like it’d be a really good idea for me to look into yoga classes which I am totally fine with. Now staying away from processed foods? That one will be a bit harder-I do love my Krispy Kremes!

  • s moore

    March 5th, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    just wondering who funded this study…probably some left wing liberalist group

  • Momof4

    March 5th, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Yoga has been very helpful to me since my kids left home. I was really involved in their lives when they lived at home.

    When they were at home, I longed for the day they graduated and I had the house to myself. But, guess what?

    As soon as they left, major depression! I started taking yoga three years ago and I notice a major difference. Not only does my body feel better, my mind feels so much better, too!

    I would recommend people start yoga as soon as possible. The more you practice, the less stress gets to you. Rather than waiting for a stressful event, start now. That way, you’ll be better prepared.

  • tiara

    March 5th, 2013 at 11:20 PM

    yoga certainly improves well being.but the measure of it is not dictated just by the factors mentioned here but also on the individual.two women could be practicing yoga with the same frequencies and yet have different results.they certainly do from person to person.

  • melody

    March 6th, 2013 at 3:55 AM

    This could be the same for any excercise that you like to do and enjoy.

    Any activity like this is bound to make you feel stronger and healthier, physically and mentally, and if it is yoga that does this for you then that is great. But there are other exercises that can do this too. I think that it is just the calm and quiet nature of yoga that really appeals to those specifically looking for inner peace.

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