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Yoga Therapy

Now we even have scientific proof: according to a meta-study, yoga has a profound, significant effect in the treatment of mental illnesses.

You probably have had the same experience yourself: when you regularly get on your yoga mat to do some practice, you feel emotionally more balanced. Now, a meta-study which was recently published in the "Deutsche Ärzteblatt" (see box below) proves that this is not only the result of your subjective perception or the content of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra.

The results of the study even go beyond an increased subjective wellbeing: even when a mental disbalance has reached a point where it can be diagnosed as a mental condition with treatment being paid for by health insurers, yoga still serves as a highly effective means of treatment. Among the conditions examined within the study were anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and schizophrenia.

At the same time, yoga is a very agreeable form of treatment: practice takes place within a group and there are hardly any side-effects. Moreover, as a holistic approach, yoga brings about a number of positive effects in addition to the mere reduction of mental symptoms. For instance, a yoga practice focusing on the body may not only improve the general mood but also ease tension in the neck. Thus, the yoga practice program saves you a visit to the gym or the physio therapist.

While health insurers currently subsidize yoga "only" as a preventive measure, the current study may prove a milestone in the recognition of yoga as an effect form of treatment for mental disorders. Yoga teachers with the necessary qualifications might look forward to an extension of their work portfolio soon.

Meta-analysis by Klatte, Pabst, Simon and Rosendahl (2016)

The researchers were able to prove that yoga, consisting of asana and pranayama, made an effective contribution to the treatment of mental disorders.

Central facts of the study:

  • summary of 25 high-quality individual studies (most of them studies from India with n = 7 and the USA with n = 8)
  • a total of 1,339 patients suffering from a mental disorder according to ICD-10 or DSM with at least mild symptoms
  • disorders covered: anxiety (incl. post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, schizophrenia, etc.)
  • probands: between 22 and 59 years, 61,7% female

Results:

  • body-oriented yoga has a profound, significant effect in the treatment of said disorders when compared to an untreated control group
  • more effective intervention than sports or an attention training program
  • efficiency exactly as high as that of psycho-therapeutic standard treatment (combination of psychotherapy and medication)
  • increased wellbeing and improved quality of life

Discussion:

  • Body-oriented yoga might be more efficient when the degree of the disorder is less severe.
  • There are results from other studies showing that a combination of psychotherapy and yoga might bring about better results than singular treatment with either psychotherapy or yoga.

Literature:
Klatte R, Pabst S, Beelmann A, Rosendahl J: The efficacy of body­oriented yoga in mental disorders—a systematic review and meta­analysis. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2016; 113: 195–202. DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2016.0195