Yoga Therapy Case Studies

Yoga has been practiced for centuries and is gaining more traction in modern societies. But what does the science say about its impact on physical, mental, and emotional well-being? These five studies use yoga therapy to help people overcome physical impairments, depression, cancer-related fatigue, and anxiety.

Case Study 1: Using Yoga Therapy for Fatigue and Anxiety

A patient with a history of fatigue, nausea, and anxiety sought help from a yoga therapy practitioner. The patient was referred to the practitioner by her oncologist when she refused treatment until after her surgery.

She had been seen by other physicians who prescribed repeated doses of anti-nausea medication, but that did not improve her condition.

On the first visit to the yoga therapist, the patient said she felt much better and no longer felt nauseous. She also enjoyed being in class each week with others doing the same as herself and found it helpful to have others who understood what she was going through. The practitioner suggested one more session each week for six weeks, followed by two additional sessions per week for another six weeks.

Yoga therapy approach:
The yoga therapy session involved a series of seated postures and movements that required the patient to focus on her breathing. It was a way for her to express herself, ground herself in the present moment, and re-establish control over her body and mind.

The practitioner also suggested certain dietary changes, taking more time to chew food and drink between sips for half an hour before meals and drinking hot water with lemon every morning on an empty stomach.

The patient enjoyed taking these dietary changes that improved her health and how she felt at work. She said she could tolerate standing longer at work, which helped her get used to being there longer than usual. She also felt that the dietary changes made her feel lighter and more in control of her physical body.

After several weekly sessions, the patient and her family members reported a great improvement in her energy level and body functioning. She also mentioned feeling much more confident to take on maintenance responsibilities, and she was back to her normal routine of cooking and cleaning at home.

The practitioner suggested continuing the exercises for two more weeks following the six-week training. The patient continued practicing yoga at home for two hours each week after that total. 

She also mentioned that she enjoyed sleeping more soundly, sleeping through the night without waking up several times during the night from feeling sick or cold.

Case Study 2: Dealing with chronic back pain

A 29-year-old woman suffering from chronic back pain had multiple treatments from various physical therapists and chiropractors. Her orthopaedist diagnosed her with disc degeneration, herniated discs, back spasm, spinal stenosis, and sciatica.

She was prescribed different exercises for her back pain but was advised to avoid sitting, bending too much, or lifting heavy objects.

In early 2012, she visited her yoga therapist at a private studio for one hour each week to practice the asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga. She also practiced Yoga Nidra three times a week for 15 minutes each session, and the final 15 minutes of the class would be devoted to Pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation.

Yoga therapy approach:
The asanas were taught at the beginning of class so that the student had time to practice independently before drinks or snacks were taken. The focus was primarily on gentle stretching exercises that targeted the muscles and structures surrounding the spine.

The yoga therapist carefully selected asanas to promote flexibility, increase blood flow to the affected areas, and alleviate chronic back pain.

Maintaining proper alignment and posture in all the asanas helped her strengthen her core and back muscles, thus maintaining a positive outcome in this case study. Most of her poses involves stretching.

The patient benefited from practicing yoga as it not only helped to reduce pain but also prevented further degeneration of spinal discs. She was told to focus on breathing during the sessions and eventually got used to being consistent with her regular practice at home for two hours twice a week for six months.

In a few months, the patient started to feel better and eventually returned to work. She also reported that she could sleep better due to the stress from her job being much less, and she could return to many of her favorite activities. Before starting yoga therapy, the patient had stopped running due to chronic back pain. Six months after yoga, she ran again for 15 minutes.

Yoga therapy helped this patient feel less tired and get regular exercise without experiencing any aggravation of back pain or sciatica. Asanas focused on strengthening core muscles instead of isolating individual muscle groups like thighs or buttocks.

Case Study 3: Balance Improvement in Seniors

It was a classic case of balance improvement in an 84-year-old patient after two months of daily practice of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises) for 2-3 hours per week.

Yoga therapy approach:
The patient was a dancer until she experienced multiple falls, resulting in a hip fracture. She was subsequently diagnosed with osteoarthritis and underwent two back surgeries.
She then turned to another yoga therapy approach, Viniyoga, which involves working with the body's living systems, including the nervous, circulatory, and energetic systems, through movement and breathing exercises that help to rebalance the system.

She was advised to practice Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), and Tadasana (Mountain Pose) throughout the day while standing and sitting, which would improve her sense of balance.

Her practitioner also recommended Kriya Yoga, a cleansing process that improves physical ailments and spiritual enlightenment by using the breath to work with mental, physical, and emotional patterns to release blockages in the body. She continued Pranayama for 15 minutes every morning to avoid any cold or flu-related complications, followed by 45 minutes of Asanas.

After consistent practice of yoga for two months, her practitioner noted that her balance improved, the pain in her hip reduced, and she could stand more comfortably and move without feeling acute pain. The patient reported having learned to focus on the sensations in her body during all exercises to know what works for her and what does not.

After six months of practicing yoga, the patient felt better physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. She could now sit comfortably at home or work and do household chores without feeling strained or tired.

Case Study 4: Using yoga therapy to improve lifestyle

Life depression is a common problem people face experiencing physical, mental, or emotional stress. The purpose of yoga therapy is to utilize the power of yoga to balance the mind and body, thereby improving one's lifestyle.

A 60-year-old male patient suffered from chronic depression following a series of strokes in her 60s. He was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress Disorder (PTSD). The patient had been on various medications for depression for several years before meeting a yoga therapist.

The practitioner assessed the patient's physical condition first, followed by yoga therapy strategies to improve health conditions and mental well being. The patient had not done any form of physical activity for several years and was taking morphine to relieve stress and anxiety attacks.

Due to the sedative effect of morphine, the patient experienced poor sleep and loss of memory, resulting in his chronic depression.

He also felt weak due to a lack of sleep, rest, and exercise. He was advised to practice Yoga Nidra for five minutes for 15 days, along with other breathing techniques at home.

Yoga therapy approach:

1. Yoga Nidra
For a patient with depression, PTSD, or anxiety disorders, Yoga Nidra helps relieve stress and insomnia. It brings rest to the nervous system and helps to balance the mind and the body. Yoga Nidra helps increase memory, which leads to better control of depression.

2. Pranayama (breathing exercises)
Yoga teaches us to breathe consciously, which calms our minds, relaxes our bodies, and increases our energy levels. Psychologically, slow breathing also boosts confidence as it restores vitality in people suffering from depression due to a lack of energy.
The patient was advised to practice Kumbhakasana and Bhujakasana for 10 minutes daily for 15 days.

3. Positive thoughts
Praise yourself first as you practice yoga. It is an important step to maintain positive thinking, as yoga pranayama helps balance the Doshas (aversions) in our body, leading to stronger physical and mental health and emotional well-being.
A gratitude list of at least five items that make you feel positive daily is another important aspect of this yoga therapy approach. The patient was advised to practice Savasana (Corpse Pose) for 5 minutes daily to help balance his body's chemical levels and release stress naturally.

4. Good diet
Water and a healthy diet are important in maintaining health and a positive outlook. The patient was advised to drink water and eat vegetables which provide the body with necessary minerals and vitamins.

The patient's progress significantly improved regarding general and mental health.

After practicing yoga therapy for almost a year, the patient reduced his dose of antidepressants by about 75% and felt much more relaxed, confident, healthier and happier.

Within four months, he could sit comfortably without dizziness or back pain. He can now get up from bed without feeling disoriented. His food habits improved, with his preferred recipes being prepared easily at home without much effort.

Case Study 5: Healing sore muscles

Muscle injury can occur from overuse, sudden injuries, diseases, or aging. Yoga therapy aims to restore the health of sore muscles and the nervous system.

A 35-year-old female patient mentioned pain around her left shoulder. She has stiffness in her neck and pain in her left shoulder and both arms due to an acute strain that occurred when she was trying to catch a falling object. The patient had not taken any pain medications since the injury occurred.

Yoga therapy approach:
1. Asanas
The patient was advised to practice Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutation) for 10 minutes, followed by asanas (yoga poses) such as Bhujangasana, Bakasana, and Virabhadrasana. The sun salutation exercise helps to boost energy levels and heal sore muscles. The practitioner also advised the patient to practice Virabhadrasana II for 10 minutes for 15 days for added relief.

2. Pranayama (breathing exercise)
 The breathing exercises help one become more relaxed, which is essential in relieving pain caused by sore muscles and the nervous system. It helps in reducing stress too.
After practicing the poses, the patient was given a few minutes of relaxation time, followed by about 5 minutes of cleansing breaths with awareness focused on the nostril area, where the chest expands during inhalation and contracts during exhalation.

3. Meditation
The patient was told to meditate between postures. It helped her to relieve stress and tension. Her muscles progressively recovered, and the pain gradually subsided.
She has been practicing yoga every day for the past three years, and her progress has shown after one year of practice, with a gradual improvement in her overall health condition.
After two years, she could comfortably sit while doing household chores, carrying young children, or even driving a car without pain or tightness in her shoulders or back.

Healthy equilibrium in the heart-chest area was restored, helping the patient recover from acute stress. Over the next three years, this gave her improved health, reduced inflammation, and a strong immune system.

She built her strength and flexibility, feeling more energetic and motivated. Sun salutes, and Pranayama helped her to recover from acute stress and reduce chronic stress. Her posture improved, and she can take care of herself.


Yoga is an instrumental practice that you should take advantage of to be self-aware and stay in the moment. These 5 case studies should confirm the tremendous therapeutic power behind this ancient healing system. It will take the world by storm when more people realize how much they can benefit from yoga therapy.