Why yoga is on the Health list of possible pseudotherapies

From the prestigious Harvard University, it is pointed out that “it promotes physical health in different ways. Some even lead to better stress management.” Among its benefits already confirmed are the improvement of back pain or the reduction of arthritis-related discomfort.There are also many others that are still being studied, such as helping with migraines, osteoporosis, balance or mobility (these investigations are in preliminary stages). However, on the website of the Ministry of Health it is indicated about the techniques under evaluation that the fact that there may be publications related to these practices does not imply that they are backed by scientific knowledge or that their efficacy and safety are endorsed.

A fishing ground for pseudoscientific therapies

“Yoga —such as music or secondary treatments with animals— brings well-being. It is a complementary therapy and has evidence that supports its results as a form of muscle relaxation with asanas and to reduce stress with meditation,” says Gerónimo Fernández Torrente , coordinator of the Observatory of Pseudosciences of the Collegiate Medical Organization of Spain , where they have drawn up a list of pseudoscientific therapies on which the ministry’s campaign has been based. “As long as it is well used, we have no problem,” clarifies the expert.

The problem seems to lie behind some of the places where yoga classes are held. The alert arises because of the frequency with which yoga centers or instructors offer or advertise pseudo-therapies, explains Elena Campos, president of the Association to Defend the Sick from Pseudoscientific Therapies. “As long as they remain in the realm of relaxation, well-being, or exercise, there is no problem, but sometimes they become pathways to different pseudotherapies and try to attribute abilities they don’t have or have not been demonstrated to them,” He says.

A hideout for quacks

The most common of these pseudoscientific therapies that are taught in yoga centers are —as the expert explains— “Ayurveda [the name used to refer to traditional Indian ‘medicine’] that is offered as therapy through the consumption of certain types of food, macrobiotics, which is also a type of diet, or osteopathy [a technique for manipulating muscle and bone tissue], which can end up causing problems if the person who does it has no health training. ”

Beyond those mentioned by the expert, a simple Google search with the words “yoga, therapies and Madrid” gives us various results from centers in the capital where other pseudotherapies included in the ministerial blacklist are put into practice. Among them are the metamorphic technique, which is a type of massage that ensures solving different health problems , or the aura soma, a supposed therapy that ensures healing diseases through light and colors.

On the other hand, the exoticism of yoga and the fact that it is fashionable make it used on several occasions by charlatans and tricksters , according to the Collegial Medical Organization of Spain . So, although they do not include this discipline as a pseudoscientific therapy, they do raise an alert: behind some centers you can find sectarian movements that use yoga as a form of recruitment or even a tool for psychological manipulation. A clear example is that of Baba Ramdev, a humble Hindu who has become a billionaire, claiming that yoga cured him of a severe paralysis that he suffered as a child .

Meditation, a magnet for sects

And yoga is not the only practice where tricksters hide. Meditation, which is also on the list of therapies under evaluation despite having scientific studies that support it – such as one from the University of Melbourne that points out that this practice can be useful to help with psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and stress – this is another discipline behind which charlatans and scammers hide. There are mindfulness classes that can hide scams in the form of courses, retreats and “healing therapies” for exorbitant prices that exceed several hundred euros .

In short, if in the center we are going to try to make us believe that this discipline has magical qualities, our alerts should jump. Replacing major disease treatments with yoga sessions or curing cancer through meditation are not on science’s list of yoga properties.

WHO RESORTS TO PSEUDOTHERAPIES?

In 2018, the CIS barometer revealed for the first time the data of consumption of pseudotherapies in Spain . The profile of those who come to them is, according to Elena Campos, “people mainly of left-wing political ideology, with greater economic capacity and a high level of education.” Regarding sex and age, they are “mainly women between 40 and 50 years”. Although, the expert concludes, “we are all susceptible to falling into these networks.

 

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