A new review of over 100 studies on the benefits of yoga for mental health has shown that yoga has a positive effect on psychiatric problems, from mild depression and sleep troubles to schizophrenia. The study called “Yoga on our minds: a systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatric disorders” was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry. The authors found that yoga influences key parts of the body that are thought to play a role in mental health in similar ways to antidepressants and psychotherapy. Scientists at Duke University Medical Center reviewed the findings of previously published research, all of which had looked at the effects of yoga on major psychiatric disorders.
In one study of 69 older adults with mild depression, weekly yoga sessions reduced depression scores by 40 percent at six months. A comparison group of adults who didn’t take yoga, and a group that practiced a form of complementary medicine called Ayurveda, did not show changes in depression scores.
In another study, seven weeks of yoga improved sleep quality and reduced the need for sleep aids in 39 adult cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. People who did not take the yoga sessions (control group) did not have an improvement in sleep.
Yoga practice improved symptoms of both schizophrenia and ADHD in people who were on medication.
One of the study’s authors, Dr Murali Doraiswamy, professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke, claimed that if yoga’s impact on mental health was available in drug form, ‘it would be the best selling medication world-wide’. He added: ‘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.’
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