The database of yogic practices used in the Yoga for Better Health and Yoga for Better Health Pro apps was initially developed by Ann Marie Johnston (Director of Yoga for Better Health) for her own personal knowledge, as she was completing her first 500 hour yoga teacher training program.
Ann Marie pulled information from various books and websites, but the more research she did, the more she noticed some discrepancies and contradictions in the information she was pulling from different sources.
Have you also seen these inconsistencies when searching for information about a yoga pose?
Wanting to ensure that Yoga for Better Health’s content was scientifically qualified, Ann Marie reached out to her Panel of Advisors, to seek guidance in reviewing and editing her data.
Steffany Moonaz, PhD (one of Yoga for Better Health’s Panel of Advisors) who had agreed to be a top level reviewer; asked me to review and edit the content with the intent of making sure it was both safe and accurately representative of the most current science and research in the field.
I started by searching the internet to see what kind of health claims and contraindications for potentially harmful poses were offered. What I found was a lack of integrity throughout the yoga industry.
Mainstream websites and magazines made outrageous claims such as “Heal Thyroid Cancer with This Yoga Pose,” or “Cure your Arthritis with These 5 Yoga Poses.” In an article called “Yoga for Osteoporosis,” a major publication pictured a woman doing a very rounded standing forward fold, which is often actually a contraindicated pose for osteoporosis due to risk of fracture. I also saw a lot of simplistic claims such as “abc pose” is good for all people with “xyz” health condition. We simply don’t have the science to support such claims. Plus, everybody is different.
In comparison, Yoga for Better Health provides suggestions for adapting practices to be better suited for every body, by considering options for different health conditions. It also provides many hundreds of images showing how to modify and vary the poses to better suit your needs.
The brilliance of Yoga for Better Health is that no one person wrote everything. The top experts in the world were consulted to contribute for their area of expertise.
I believe in the inspired vision of Yoga for Better Health, so I decided to take on the (rather large) task of editing the content, under the advisement of several other yoga therapists and experts. As a professor of anatomy and physiology at a college level and teacher of anatomy in yoga teacher training programs, I naturally applied science to the content of the website. This meant staring at an Excel spreadsheet for many (hundred) hours crossing off misunderstood health claims and adding safety tips. (Don’t worry, I took many yoga breaks away from sitting at the computer screen!)
Logic was applied. A variety of resources were consulted, including my own physiology text books, along with many yoga books, including “Key Poses of Yoga” by Ray Long, MD, and “A Physiological Handbook for Teachers of Yogasana” by Mel Robins, PhD. The research search engine PubMed was constantly open to consider the most recent research in yoga and related fields like physical therapy and exercise science. Many, many hundreds of hours later, Yoga for Better Health’s database was ready to be added to the apps!
Yoga for Better Health’s library of practices is evidence-informed. This means that we took into account relevant research when writing the practice descriptions, benefits, and contraindications. The content is provided to you as a starting point and a general suggestion that should be adapted for each individual.
For yoga professionals, Yoga for Better Health’s library of practices acts as a tool to inform clinical reasoning.
It can also be a tool to help yoga students be safely guided in their home practice. However, I recommend students consider finding an expert to for advisement. Yoga for Better Health’s directory (found the in the free app and on the website) can connect you with local professionals with the expertise needed, or you can search for teachers who work with their clients via telehealth options, like I do.
Article Written by: Ann Swanson
Ann is a mind-body science educator, yoga therapist, and author of SCIENCE OF YOGA. She supports people in living happier, healthier lives, by making wellness non-intimidating and accessible to everybody. With a Master of Science in yoga therapy and roots studying yoga in India and qi gong in China, she uniquely applies cutting-edge research to mind-body practices while maintaining the heart of the traditions. Her practical tips and online classes help busy people worldwide relieve pain, manage stress, and find ease.