Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 460–471 | Cite as

Who practices yoga? A systematic review of demographic, health-related, and psychosocial factors associated with yoga practice

  • Crystal L. ParkEmail author
  • Tosca Braun
  • Tamar Siegel


Yoga has become increasingly popular in the US and around the world, yet because most yoga research is conducted as clinical trials or experiments, little is known about the characteristics and correlates of people who independently choose to practice yoga. We conducted a systematic review of this issue, identifying 55 studies and categorizing correlates of yoga practice into sociodemographics, psychosocial characteristics, and mental and physical well-being. Yoga use is greatest among women and those with higher socioeconomic status and appears favorably related to psychosocial factors such as coping and mindfulness. Yoga practice often relates to better subjective health and health behaviors but also with more distress and physical impairment. However, evidence is sparse and methodological limitations preclude drawing causal inferences. Nationally representative studies have minimally assessed yoga while studies with strong assessment of yoga practice (e.g., type, dose) are generally conducted with convenience samples. Almost all studies reviewed are cross-sectional and few control for potential confounding variables. We provide recommendations for future research to better understand the correlates of yoga practice.


Yoga Mental well-being Physical well-being Psychosocial correlates 


Conflict of interest

Crystal L. Park, Tosca Braun and Tamar Siegel declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

Supplementary material

10865_2015_9618_MOESM1_ESM.doc (205 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 205 kb)


  1. Balakrishanan, R., Nachimuthu, P., & Varthini, R. (2007). Yoga attitude and USHA well-being among yoga practitioners. Journal of Indian Psychology, 25, 59–63.Google Scholar
  2. Bankar, M., Chaudhari, S., & Chaudhari, K. (2013). Impact of long term Yoga practice on sleep and quality of life in the elderly. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 4, 28–32.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bertisch, S. M., Wee, C. C., & McCarthy, E. P. (2008). Use of complementary and alternative therapies by overweight and obese adults. Obesity, 16, 1610–1615.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bertisch, S. M., Wee, C. C., Phillips, R. S., & McCarthy, E. P. (2009). Alternative mind-body therapies used by adults with medical conditions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66, 511–519.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Birdee, G. S., Legedza, A. T., Saper, R. B., Bertisch, S. M., Eisenberg, D. M., & Phillips, R. S. (2008). Characteristics of yoga users: Results of a national survey. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 23, 1653–1658.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Barnes P. M., Bloom, B., & Nahin R. L. (2008) Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007. National Health Statistics Report.Google Scholar
  7. Bock, B. C., Morrow, K. M., Becker, B. M., Williams, D. M., Tremont, G., Gaskins, R. B., & Marcus, B. H. (2010). Yoga as a complementary treatment for smoking cessation. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 10, 14.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bradshaw, D. H., Donaldson, G. W., & Okifuji, A. (2012). Pain uncertainty in patients with fibromyalgia, yoga practitioners, and healthy volunteers. International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 22, 37–46.Google Scholar
  9. Brisbon, N. M., & Lowery, G. A. (2011). Mindfulness and levels of stress: A comparison of beginner and advanced Hatha Yoga practitioners. Journal of Religion and Health, 50, 931–941.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Buettner, C., Kroenke, C. H., Phillips, R. S., Davis, R. B., Eisenberg, D. M., & Holmes, M. D. (2006). Correlates of use of different types of complementary and alternative medicine by breast cancer survivors in the Nurses’ Health Study. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 100, 219–227.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Carbonneau, N., Vallerand, R. J., & Massicotte, S. (2010). Is the practice of yoga associated with positive outcomes? The role of passion. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 452–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cella, D. F. (1994). Quality of life: Concepts and definition. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 9, 186–192.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Conboy, L., Patel, S., Kaptchuk, T. J., Gottlieb, B., Eisenberg, D., & Acevedo-Garcia, D. (2005). Sociodemographic determinants of the utilization of specific types of complementary and alternative medicine. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11, 977–994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cramer, H., Lauche, R., Langhorst, J., Dobos, G., & Paul, A. (2013a). Quality of life and mental health in patients with chronic diseases who regularly practice yoga and those who do not: A case-control study. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. doi: 10.1155/2013/702914.
  15. Cramer, H., Lauche, R., Langhorst, J., Paul, A., Michalsen, A., & Dobos, G. (2013b). Predictors of yoga use among internal medicine patients. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 13, 172.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Dale, L. P., Carroll, L. E., Galen, G. C., Schein, R., Bliss, A., Mattison, A. M., & Neace, W. P. (2011). Yoga practice may buffer the deleterious effects of abuse on women’s self-concept and dysfunctional coping. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 20, 90–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Daubenmier, J. J. (2005). The relationship of yoga, body awareness, and body responsiveness to self-objectification and disordered eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29, 207–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Delaney, K., & Anthis, K. (2010). Is women’s participation in different types of yoga classes associated with different levels of body awareness satisfaction? International Journal of Yoga Therapy, 1, 62–71.Google Scholar
  19. DeNavas-Walt, C., Cleveland, R. W., & Webster Jr, B. H. (2003). Income in the United States: 2002. US Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, (pp. 60–221). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  20. Desai, K., Bowman, M., Galantino, M. L., Hughes-Halbert, C., Vapiwala, N., DeMichele, A., & Mao, J. (2010). Predictors of yoga use among patients with breast cancer. Explore, 6, 359–363.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Ding, D., & Stamatakis, E. (2014). Yoga practice in England 1997–2008: prevalence, temporal trends, and correlates of participation. BMC Research Notes, 7, 172. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-7-172 CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Dittmann, K. A., & Freedman, M. R. (2009). Body awareness, eating attitudes, and spiritual beliefs of women practicing yoga. Eating Disorders, 17, 273–292.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Field, T. (2011). Yoga clinical research review. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 17, 1–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Fouladbakhsh, J. M., & Stommel, M. (2010). Gender, symptom experience, and use of complementary and alternative medicine practices among cancer survivors in the U.S. cancer population. Oncology Nursing Forum, 37, E7–E15.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Framson, C., Kristal, A. R., Schenk, J. M., Littman, A. J., Zeliadt, S., & Benitez, D. (2009). Development and validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109, 1439–1444.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Garrow, D., & Egede, L. E. (2006). National patterns and correlates of CAM use in adults with diabetes. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 12, 895–902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gill, A., & Kumar, A. (2014). Comparative study of locus of control between yogic and non-yogic female students of Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra. International Journal of Physical Education Sports Management and Yogic Sciences, 4, 19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gold, E. B., Bair, Y., Zhang, G., Utts, J., Greendale, G. A., Upchurch, D., & Adler, S. (2007). Cross-sectional analysis of specific CAM use by racial/ethnic group and menopausal status. Menopause, 14, 612–623.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Graham, R. E., Ahn, A. C., Davis, R. B., O’Connor, B. B., Eisenberg, D. M., & Phillips, R. S. (2005). Use of CAM therapies among racial and ethnic minority adults. Journal of the National Medical Association, 97, 535–545.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Hasselle-Newcombe, S. (2005). Spirituality and “mystical religion” in contemporary society: A case study of British practitioners of the Iyengar method of yoga. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 20, 305–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ivtzan, I., & Papantoniou, A. (2014). Yoga meets positive psychology. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 18, 183–189.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Christian, L. M., Andridge, R., Hwang, B. S., Malarkey, W. B., Belury, M., & Glaser, R. (2012). Adiponectin, leptin, and yoga practice. Physiology & Behavior, 107, 809–813.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Christian, L., Preston, H., Houts, C. R., Malarkey, W., Emery, C. F., & Glaser, R. (2010). Stress, inflammation, and yoga practice. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72, 113–121.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Kraemer, J. M., & Marquez, D. X. (2009). Psychosocial correlates and outcomes of yoga or walking among older adults. The Journal of Psychology, 143, 390–404.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Kristal, A. R., Littman, A. J., Benitez, D., & White, E. (2005). Yoga practice is associated with attenuated weight gain in healthy, middle-aged men and women. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 11, 28–33.Google Scholar
  36. Lafaille, R. (1997). An evaluation study on yoga as a healthy life style program. Antwerpen. Retrieved from
  37. Li, A. W., & Goldsmith, C.-A. W. (2012). The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Alternative Medicine Review, 17, 21–35.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Mao, J. J., Palmer, C. S., Healy, K. E., Desai, K., & Amsterdam, J. (2010). Complementary and alternative medicine use among cancer survivors: A population-based study. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 5, 8–17.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Mehta, D. H., Phillips, R. S., Davis, R. B., & McCarthy, E. P. (2007). Use of complementary and alternative therapies by Asian Americans. Results from the National Health Interview Survey. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 22, 762–767.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Moliver, N., Mika, E., Chartrand, M., Burrus, S., Haussmann, R., & Khalsa, S. (2011). Increased Hatha yoga experience predicts lower body mass index and reduced medication use in women over 45 years. International Journal of Yoga, 4, 77–86.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Moliver, N., Mika, E., Chartrand, M., Haussmann, R., & Khalsa, S. (2013). Yoga experience as a predictor of psychological wellness in women over 45 years. International Journal of Yoga, 6, 11–19.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Monk-Turner, E., & Turner, C. (2010). Does yoga shape body, mind and spiritual health and happiness: Differences between yoga practitioners and college students. International Journal of Yoga, 3, 48–54.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Neumark-Sztainer, D., Eisenberg, M. E., Wall, M., & Loth, K. A. (2011). Yoga and pilates: Associations with body image and disordered-eating behaviors in a population-based sample of young adults. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 44, 276–280.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Nicholson, A. J. (2013). Is yoga Hindu? Common Knowledge, 19, 490–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Palasuwan, A., Margaritis, I., Soogarun, S., & Rousseau, A.-S. (2011). Dietary intakes and antioxidant status in mind-body exercising pre- and postmenopausal women. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 15, 577–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Park, C. L., Cho, D., & Wortmann, J. H. (2013). The impact of yoga upon young adult cancer survivors. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 19, 77–82.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Park, C. L., Riley, K. E., Besedin, E., & Stewart, V. M. (in press). Why practice yoga? Practitioners’ motivations for starting and continuing yoga. Journal of Health Psychology.Google Scholar
  48. Penman, S., Cohen, M., Stevens, P., & Jackson, S. (2012). Yoga in Australia: Results of a national survey. International Journal of Yoga, 5, 92–101.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Prichard, I., & Tiggemann, M. (2008). Relations among exercise type, self-objectification, and body image in the fitness centre environment. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 9, 855–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ross, A., Friedmann, E., Bevans, M., & Thomas, S. (2012). Frequency of yoga practice predicts health. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Article ID 983258.Google Scholar
  51. Ross, A., Friedmann, E., Bevans, M., & Thomas, S. (2013). National survey of yoga practitioners: Mental and physical health benefits. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 21, 313–323.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Saper, R. B., Eisenberg, D. M., Davis, R. B., Culpepper, L., & Phillips, R. S. (2004). Prevalence and patterns of adult yoga use in the United States: Results of a national survey. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 10, 44–49.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Satin, J. R., Linden, W., & Millman, R. D. (2014). Yoga and Psychophysiological Determinants of Cardiovascular Health: Comparing Yoga Practitioners, Runners, and Sedentary Individuals. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 47, 231–241.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Shah, S. H., Engelhardt, R., & Ovbiagele, B. (2008). Patterns of complementary and alternative medicine use among US stroke survivors. Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 271, 180–185.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Smith, H. A., Matthews, A., Markovic, N., Youk, A., Danielson, M. E., & Talbott, E. O. (2010). A comparative study of complementary and alternative medicine use among heterosexually and lesbian identified women: Data from the ESTHER Project (Pittsburgh, PA, 2003–2006). The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16, 1161–1170.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Stein, K. D., Kaw, C., Crammer, C., & Gansler, T. (2009). The role of psychological functioning in the use of complementary and alternative methods among disease-free colorectal cancer survivors. Cancer, 115, 4397–4408.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Upchurch, D. M., Dye, C. E., Chyu, L., Gold, E. B., & Greendale, G. A. (2010). Demographic, behavioral, and health correlates of complementary and alternative medicine and prayer use among midlife women: 2002. Journal of Women’s Health, 19, 23–30.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Van Tilburg, M. A., Palsson, O. S., Levy, R. L., Feld, A. D., Turner, M. J., Drossman, D. A., & Whitehead, W. E. (2008). Complementary and alternative medicine use and cost in functional bowel disorders. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 8, 46.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Venkatesh, S., Pal, M., Negi, B. S., Varma, V. K., et al. (1994). A comparative study of yoga practitioners and controls on certain psychological variables. Indian Journal of Clinical Psychology, 21, 22–27.Google Scholar
  60. Vera, F. M., Manzaneque, J. M., Maldonado, E. F., Carranque, G. A., Rodriguez, F. M., Blanca, M. J., & Morell, M. (2009). Subjective sleep quality and hormonal modulation in long-term yoga practitioners. Biological Psychology, 81, 164–168.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Villemure, C., Ceko, M., Cotton, V. A., & Bushnell, M. C. (2014). Insular cortex mediates increased pain tolerance in yoga practitioners. Cerebral Cortex, 24, 2732–2740.Google Scholar
  62. Wells, R. E., Bertisch, S. M., Buettner, C., Phillips, R. S., & McCarthy, E. P. (2011). Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults with migraines/severe headaches. Headache, 51, 1087–1097.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Yoshihara, K., Hiramoto, T., Sudo, N., & Kubo, C. (2011). Profile of mood states and stress-related biochemical indices in long-term yoga practitioners. BioPsychoSocial Medicine, 5, 6.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Zajac, A. U., & Schier, K. (2011). Body image dysphoria and motivation to exercise: A study of Canadian and Polish women participating in yoga or aerobics. Archives of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, 4, 67–72.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

Personalised recommendations