Yoga practice has been shown to have benefits on relaxation, some aspects of physical fitness, and changes of positive lifestyle. Flexibility is an important component of health-related fitness, as well as performance-related fitness for development of many athletes. Lack of flexibility can cause functional problems and disorders, such as low back pain, for many individuals. Although previous studies suggested that yoga be an acceptable form of physical activity for enhancing flexibility, there is a need for further research that are interventional and controlled with the supervised yoga exercise. The primary aim of this controlled study was to examine if an 8-week course of supervised yoga exercise training had effective influence on flexibility in college students.
After Institutional Review Board approval, 82 general college students (M = 20; F = 62), between the ages of 18 and 43, enrolled in this study. All subjects completed an informed consent document prior to participating in the study. Forty-six subjects (mean age 20.4 ± 3.4 yr) in yoga classes were assigned to the interventional group (YOG) and 36 students (mean age 20.2 ± 4.1 yr) in other general classes to control group (CON). Time for a yoga class session was 50 minutes, and the classes were 3 days per week for 8 weeks. Flexibility of all subjects was assessed by the sit-and-reach test before and after 8- week classes. A repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to analyze the data. Descriptive statistics were expressed by mean ± SD and significant level was set at p < 0.05. Analysis/Results:
The baseline values of flexibility and physical characteristics were comparable in both groups. There were no significant mean differences for pre-intervention flexibility with 30.25 ± 7.58 cm for CON and 32.21 ± 7.70 cm for YOG (p > 0.05), respectively. After the 8-week intervention, subjects in YOG group experienced a significant mean change in flexibility by increasing 3.16 cm (35.37 ± 7.82; p < .001). However, there had no mean flexibility change in CON group (30.51 ± 7.45 cm; p > 0.05). After 8 weeks, the mean difference of flexibility between YOG and CON groups was 3.40 ± 1.67 (mean ± SEM, 95% CI = -0.411 to 7.218; p = 0.045), indicating a significant influence of the supervised yoga training.
The results of this study indicate the efficacy of an 8-week yoga exercise course in increasing flexibility in general college students. The yoga exercise training induced improvement in flexibility may have protective benefits for health-related fitness and quality of daily life.