Tyagi, A. & Cohen, M., (2013) Oxygen Consumption Changes With Yoga Practices A Systematic Review Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine vol. 18(4) 290-308



Oxygen consumption varies with physical and mental activity as well as pathological conditions. Although there is a strong relationship between yoga and metabolic parameters, the relationship between yoga and oxygen consumption has not yet been formally reviewed. This systematic review attempted to include all studies of yoga that also measured oxygen consumption or metabolic rate as an outcome. A total of 58 studies were located involving between 1 and 104 subjects (average 21). The studies were generally of poor methodological quality and demonstrated great heterogeneity with different experimental designs, yoga practices, time periods, and small sample sizes. Studies report yoga practices to have profound metabolic effects producing both increase and decrease in oxygen consumption, ranging from 383% increase with cobra pose to 40% decrease with meditation. Compared to nonpractitioners, basal oxygen consumption is reported to be up to 15% less in regular yoga practitioners, and regular yoga practice is reported to have a training effect with oxygen consumption during submaximal exercise decreasing by 36% after 3 months. Yoga breathing practices emphasize breathing patterns and retention ratios as well as unilateral nostril breathing, and these factors appear critical in influencing oxygen consumption. A number of studies report extraordinary volitional control over metabolism in advanced yoga practitioners who appear to be able to survive extended periods in airtight pits and to exceed the limits of normal human endurance. More rigorous research with standardized practices is required to determine the mechanisms of yoga’s metabolic effects and the relevance of yoga practices in different clinical populations.