Yoga Reduces Anxiety in Individuals Resistant to Other Treatments

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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  • Bea

    March 14th, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    That’s great but. . . I GET SO BORED AT YOGA!
    Maybe it’s the repetitiveness or the slow pace, but I have found that actually makes me MORE anxious. I have to rev it up a bit more to get my tensions out. I KNOW that this works for some people, and I really do hope that it catches on if for nothing more than to show everyone that one treatment does NOT fit all. But for me it has gotta be a little faster for me to get any kind of tension relief. But hey, I’m not in therapy. . . but maybe need to be :)

  • Rhianne

    March 15th, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    Being a success at yoga is to be able to slow down and smell the proverbial roses. It takes so much energy and focus to be able to do this and to forget about all that is around you and to let it relax you and make you stronger all at the same time. Yoga is something that has to be learned, has to be practiced for it to be its most effective. It’s not like you can just lace up your sneakers and start runing. You have to be willing to leanr and be taught the true art of yoga.

  • bryce l

    March 15th, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    Are there very many guys on here who do yoga? I might like to try it but it kind of feels like a woman thing.

  • Bill

    March 15th, 2012 at 9:47 PM

    @Bea:Yoga is all about relaxation and concentration.It cannot be fast.If you’re looking for something cardio-speed then yoga is not the place to look for it.Relaxation of the mind whether by therapy,through music or through yoga is always slow paced and that is how it is.

  • Sledge

    March 16th, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    I like this kind of thinking outside of the box.
    You would not necessarily think of this as therapy, but it can be!
    This is a genuinely good way to relax and breathe, focusing on doing something that is taking care of your body and your soul.

  • Keith

    March 17th, 2012 at 7:44 AM

    If this was something I had to face I would try anything I could before taking meds. They can seriously mess with your mind and not in a good way. So if it meant rolling out the yoga mat, then I guess I would be willing to give it a try.

  • Catrina dodge

    March 18th, 2012 at 6:09 AM

    I wonder if the fact of just being in a class with supportive peers has something to do with the lessening of symptoms.

    Maybe there are other types of classes, workshops, etc that could be just as influential in helping those deal with anxiety issues simply because of the friendships and acquaintances that they make while in there.

    There is a lot to be said for feeding off of the positive energy of others, and this might just work if we could get more people to open the door to that particular possibility.

  • Kumaraswamy

    March 22nd, 2012 at 11:15 PM

    Dear bryce, yoga does not differentiate between gender nor religion, sure you can try it out.
    All the Best to you.

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