'Yoga may help in depression, sleep and psychiatric problems'

PTI Washington | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on January 27, 2013

Yoga — the 5,000-year-old Indian meditative practice — may have positive effects on major psychiatric disorders, including depression, schizophrenia and sleep problems, according to a review of over 100 studies.

A systematic review of the exercise on major clinical psychiatric disorders by Indian origin researchers found yoga has positive effects on mild depression and sleep complaints, even in the absence of drug treatments, and improves symptoms associated with schizophrenia and ADHD.

The review focusing on 16 high-quality controlled studies looked at the effects of yoga on depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, sleep complaints, eating disorders and cognition problems.

“However, yoga has become such a cultural phenomenon that it has become difficult for physicians and patients to differentiate legitimate claims from hype,” researchers said in a statement.

“Our goal was to examine whether the evidence matched the promise,” they wrote in the study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Researcher P. Murali Doraiswamy, professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center, US, explained that the emerging scientific evidence in support of yoga on psychiatric disorders is “highly promising” and showed that it may not only help to improve symptoms, but also play ancillary role in the prevention of stress-related mental illnesses.

Biomarker studies

The review found evidence from biomarker studies showing that yoga influences key elements of the human body thought to play a role in mental health in similar ways to that of antidepressants and psychotherapy.

One study found that the exercise affects inflammation, neurotransmitters, oxidative stress, lipids, growth factors and second messengers.

“While there has been an increase in the number of medications available for mental health disorders, many of which can be life-saving for patients, there remains a considerable unmet need,” Dr Meera Balasubramaniam, lead author of the study, said.

Poor compliance and relapse as well as treatment resistance are growing problems, and medications are expensive and can leave patients with significant side-effects.

“The search for improved treatments, including non-drug based, to meet the holistic needs of patients is of paramount importance and we call for more research into yoga as a global priority,” said Doraiswamy.

“If the promise of yoga on mental health was found in a drug, it would be the best selling medication world-wide,” he added.

Published on January 27, 2013
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