Yoga is often equated with acrobatic stretching exercises that are supposed to induce relaxation and a better body awareness.
This benefit has been scientifically proven. What has been little researched so far is how different yoga techniques such as the so-called “sun salutation” or breathing exercises as well as meditation work in combination. Dr. Karin Matko, research associate at the Professorship General and Biopsychology (Head: Prof. Dr. Udo Rudolph) at Chemnitz University of Technology, addressed this question as the first author. Prof. Dr. Peter Sedlmeier, head of the Professorship Research Methods and Evaluation at Chemnitz University of Technology, and Dr. med. Holger C. Bringmann from Charité Berlin collaborated in the study.
In her evaluation of results from 19 meta-analyses of a total of 330 studies – a so-called “meta-synthesis” – the psychologist found that the combination of different yoga techniques is related to their benefits. Thus, a combination increases therapeutic or preventive benefits. “Our results, which are mostly consistent across the studies we examined, show that combining different elements in yoga is better. In almost all cases, combined interventions were superior to simpler interventions,” says Karin Matko – regardless of whether the problem is high blood pressure, diabetes or depression. The combination of physical exercises with breathing techniques or meditation was particularly effective. However, there were also particularities: “In the case of asthma, for example, yoga only works if it includes breathing exercises,” says Matko, who is also a trained yoga teacher.
Results also confirmed experimentally
In another study, Matko was also able to confirm this result experimentally. She compared the effects of four different combinations of yoga, meditation and the ethical foundations of yoga on healthy subjects with no previous experience: “If you want to avoid or reduce stress, the combination of yoga and meditation seems to be particularly helpful,” she explains.
In addition, Matko and her colleagues Sedlmeier and Bringmann show that a combination of meditation and ethical education can sustainably increase well-being: “The intense engagement with oneself during the ethical education sessions seems to have had a really lasting effect on our participants.” The researcher concludes that it may be well worth decorating yoga with its original “icing on the cake” and practicing it together with meditation or other traditional practices.