Depending on the type of yoga performed, it’s often thought to lower the risk of certain conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease. It can also lead to a more flexible body that’s less likely to sustain injury.
A new report by researchers at Duke University indicates that engaging in yoga may also help to alleviate certain psychiatric disorders. In order to create their report, researchers looked at 16 existing peer-reviewed studies that sought to identify how performing yoga can influence mental illness. Based on their analysis of these studies’ findings, the researchers determined that yoga can improve depression and sleep problems in individuals even in the absence of medication. Further, they found that yoga can alleviate ADHD and schizophrenia in people who are taking medication to treat these disorders.
Reductions in Depression, Improvements in Sleep
One of the studies followed 69 older individuals, all of whom suffered from mild depression. The individuals engaged in weekly yoga for sleep disorders, which in turn lowered average depression scores by 40% in just six months. The control group, which did not participate in any yoga for sleep disorders at all, experienced no reductions in their depression scores.
A separate study focused on 39 adults who were receiving chemotherapy and experiencing sleeping difficulties as a result. In these individuals, weekly yoga for seven weeks resulted in less need for pharmaceutical sleep aids and higher-quality sleep. Again, the control group in this study experienced no improvements in their sleeping patterns, nor did they require fewer sleep aids to help them snooze.
As Good as Antidepressants?
According to medicine and psychiatry professor Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University Medical Center, the studies reviewed indicate that yoga can have a positive effect on brain chemistry and bodily inflammation, similar to how psychotherapy and antidepressants affect the same.
However, the NCCAM, or National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, cautions individuals that yoga is not a sufficient replacement for conventional medical care. If you have a medical condition, it’s important to talk to your doctor before beginning a yoga routine. You should tell your doctor about any alternative health practices you engage in, according to the NCCAM.
Limitations of the Review
The review conducted by Duke University had certain limitations, largely stemming from limitations of the studies included in the review. The subjects in many of the studies suffered from mild depression, so it remains to be seen how yoga can impact more severe forms of depression. It’s also important to note that many of the studies involved group yoga as opposed to individual yoga. It’s possible that many of the individuals benefited from the regular social interactions that come along with weekly yoga, as opposed to just the yoga moves themselves.
Yoga for Sleep Disorders and Depression: The Bottom Line
Yoga may be beneficial for people with ADHD, sleep problems, schizophrenia and depression, according to a new review of 16 studies by Duke University researchers. The full text of the review can be found online in the medical journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.