Although few studies have tested the effects of yoga for anxiety, the existing research suggests that yoga may be of some benefit in the management of anxiety disorders. A mind-body practice that combines physical poses with deep breathing and meditation, yoga is thought to help lessen anxiety by promoting relaxation. By using yoga for anxiety, patients may be able to reduce a number of symptoms of anxiety (including excessive worrying, irritability, nervousness, and poor concentration).
Benefits of Yoga for Anxiety
To date, research on the benefits of yoga for anxiety has been inconclusive. For instance, in a 2005 review of eight studies on the use of yoga for anxiety, researchers found "encouraging results." However, the review's authors concluded that "it is not possible to say that yoga is effective in treating anxiety or anxiety disorders in general," largely due to the poor quality of the reviewed studies.
Since the publication of the 2005 review, several small studies on yoga for anxiety have yielded positive findings. In a 2007 trial involving 131 subjects with mild to moderate levels of stress, researchers found that 10 weekly one-hour yoga sessions reduced anxiety (in addition to taming stress and improving mental health).
In a 2009 study of 65 women with symptoms of depression and anxiety, scientists discovered that attending a twice-weekly 90-minute yoga class for two months led to a significant decrease in anxiety. And in another 2009 trial involving 98 breast cancer patients, those who took part in daily one-hour yoga sessions prior to receiving surgery had lower levels of anxiety (compared to patients assigned to a control group).
Should You Use Yoga for Anxiety?
Due to the lack of research, it's too soon to recommend the use of yoga for anxiety or anxiety disorders. Moreover, you should not attempt to self-treat anxiety disorders with yoga (or any other type of alternative therapy).
If you're considering the use of yoga for anxiety, talk to your doctor about how to incorporate yoga into your treatment program.
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Kirkwood G, Rampes H, Tuffrey V, Richardson J, Pilkington K. "Yoga for anxiety: a systematic review of the research evidence." Br J Sports Med. 2005 39(12):884-91; discussion 891.
Krisanaprakornkit T, Krisanaprakornkit W, Piyavhatkul N, Laopaiboon M. "Meditation therapy for anxiety disorders." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 25;(1):CD004998.
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