Anxiety can cause significant impairment in individuals, including lost time from work, decreased quality of life, substance dependence, depression, and even suicide. Many individuals who receive anti-anxiety medication respond relatively well but struggle with the negative side effects of medication, which include weight gain, sexual impairment, nausea, and even addiction. People who receive mindfulness-based treatment or cognitive behavioral therapy for symptoms of anxiety often discontinue treatment before they have realized any marked improvement. Finding effective and easy to administer treatments that can be used in conjunction with medication and other therapies could help decrease the overall cost of the illness and significantly improve the lives of those suffering with anxiety. One form of alternative therapy that has shown positive results in some anxiety-related disorders is yoga. Martin Katzman of the START Clinic for Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Canada recently conducted a study to determine how beneficial the addition of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) would be in clients with treatment-resistant anxiety.
Previous studies have shown that individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) often suffer with other conditions, including panic, social phobia, and depression. Additionally, the physical health of anxious individuals suffers as well. SKY and the breathing techniques taught through yoga encourage relaxation and decrease stress. Existing evidence shows that these methods help people improve their response to stress and can alleviate symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. For his study, Katzman chose individuals who had GAD and had been receiving traditional therapy and medication for at least 2 months. The participants were enrolled in 5 days of SKY and taught how to practice breathing exercises at home. Using the Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAM), Katzman assessed the 31 participants after the experiment and found a dramatic decrease in symptoms of GAD. Specifically, the participants reported far fewer physical symptoms and less worry, one of the primary factors associated with anxiety. Katzman believes that these results, which demonstrated effectiveness in those with treatment-resistant anxiety, provide hope for those suffering with GAD. He added, “The integration of Eastern mind-body practices and Western medicine bodes well for alleviating anxiety symptoms in those suffering from serious remission-resistant GAD.”
Katzman, M., Vermani, M., Gerbarg, P., Brown, R., Iorio, C., Davis, M., Cameron, C., Tsirgielis, D. (2012). A multicomponent yoga-based, breath intervention program as an adjunctive treatment in patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder with or without comorbidities. International Journal of Yoga 5.1, 57-65.
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