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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Characteristics of randomized controlled trials of yoga: a bibliometric analysis

Holger Cramer*, Romy Lauche and Gustav Dobos

Author Affiliations

Department of Internal and Integrative Medicine, Kliniken Essen-Mitte, Faculty of Medicine, University of Duisburg-Essen, Am Deimelsberg 34a, 45276 Essen, Germany

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:328  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-328

Published: 2 September 2014

Abstract

Background

A growing number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have investigated the therapeutic value of yoga interventions. This bibliometric analysis aimed to provide a comprehensive review of the characteristics of the totality of available randomized yoga trials.

Methods

All RCTs of yoga were eligible. Medline/PubMed, Scopus, the Cochrane Library, IndMED, and the tables of content of yoga specialty journals not listed in medical databases were screened through February 2014. Bibliometric data, data on participants, and intervention were extracted and analyzed descriptively.

Results

Published between 1975 and 2014, a total of 366 papers were included, reporting 312 RCTs from 23 different countries with 22,548 participants. The median study sample size was 59 (range 8–410, interquartile range = 31, 93). Two hundred sixty-four RCTs (84.6%) were conducted with adults, 105 (33.7%) with older adults and 31 (9.9%) with children. Eighty-four RCTs (26.9%) were conducted with healthy participants. Other trials enrolled patients with one of 63 varied medical conditions; the most common being breast cancer (17 RCTs, 5.4%), depression (14 RCTs, 4.5%), asthma (14 RCTs, 4.5%) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (13 RCTs, 4.2%). Whilst 119 RCTs (38.1%) did not define the style of yoga used, 35 RCTs (11.2%) used Hatha yoga and 30 RCTs (9.6%) yoga breathing. The remaining 128 RCTs (41.0%) used 46 varied yoga styles, with a median intervention length of 9 weeks (range 1 day to 1 year; interquartile range = 5, 12). Two hundred and forty-four RCTs (78.2%) used yoga postures, 232 RCTs (74.4%) used breath control, 153 RCTs (49.0%) used meditation and 32 RCTs (10.3%) used philosophy lectures. One hundred and seventy-four RCTs (55.6%) compared yoga with no specific treatment; 21 varied control interventions were used in the remaining RCTs.

Conclusions

This bibliometric analysis presents the most complete up-to-date overview on published randomized yoga trials. While the available research evidence is sparse for most conditions, there was a marked increase in published RCTs in recent years.

Keywords:
Yoga; Complementary therapies; Randomized controlled trials; Bibliometrics; Review