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Hatha yoga
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Yoga as a Remedy for Anxiety PDF Print E-mail

Hatha yoga is a discipline that was introduced in the 15th century by Yogi Swatmarama. It was meant to serve as

a purification for the physical body as a means to attain higher levels of meditation. This ancient Indic practice of postures and movement is considered holistic. Hatha Yoga involves discipline of the physical body as well as the higher consciousness of the mind. Over the last several decades Hatha Yoga has become more and more popular within western culture because of its many mental and physical health benefits. In particular clinical studies have shown that the regular practice of Hatha Yoga promotes stress relief, well being and reduction of anxiety and depression in patients suffering from cancer, clinical depression, heart disease, multiple sclerosis or other conditions. The following is a literature review of published studies that suggest the overwhelming efficacy of regular Hatha Yoga practice as a means to treat or augment the therapies of many chronic and acute health conditions.

Anxiety and depression are growing public health issues. These conditions can be debilitating and long time suffering can lead to other physical conditions and maladies. The Department of Integrative Internal Medicine V at the University Duisburg-Essen Germany conducted a study of 24 women who considered themselves emotionally distressed. The study method was controlled and non-randomized. The participants were divided into two groups. Group one participated in a three month long Iyengar yoga class that met twice a week for 90 minutes. Group two was put on a waiting list as a control. In addition salivary cortisol levels were taken from both groups at the beginning and the end of the study. At the conclusion of the study period, as compared to Group two, the women in Group one, reported significant reductions in their perceived stress and state anxiety. They also reported improvements in vigor, fatigue, depression, and physical wellbeing. Salivary cortisol levels were also decreased.1

In another study conducted by the Psychiatric Department of Islamic Azad University, the effects of yoga on depression and anxiety were studied. The test volunteers were assigned to two groups and assessed for state and trait anxiety. One group was assigned to a two-month yoga class; the other group was placed on a waiting list. At the end of the two-month study period the women in both groups were assessed. The women who participated in the yoga classes, and had been suffering from anxiety disorder showed significant reductions in their perceived anxiety over those who had been wait listed. It was concluded that yoga could be considered for a complementary or alternative therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders.2

Chronic and acute illness can also lead to stress, anxiety and depression. High stress levels can prevent the body from being able to fight illness to its fullest potential. Often medications used to combat various illnesses can cause unwanted side effects. All of these factors can lessen perceived quality of life. The regular practice of yoga has demonstrated that it can be very helpful in dealing with and combating illness.

Wake Forrest University School of Medicine conducted a study of 51 women suffering from either ovarian or breast cancer to determine if Restorative yoga should be indicated as supportive therapy. The study sought to measure levels of fatigue, psychological distress, wellbeing, and quality of life. Among the test subjects, many were undergoing active cancer treatment. The study period was 10 weeks in which participants attended a 75-minute class each week. At the end of the 10 weeks participants completed a questionnaire to assess their progress. Marked improvements were observed in depression, negative affects state anxiety, mental health, and quality of life.3

In a study conducted by the Department of Life Sciences and Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana in Banglor India, a positive correlation was made between the regular practice of yoga and the reduction of nausea, anxiety, depression and distressfulness during chemotherapy. Sixty-two study subjects who were receiving chemotherapy were divided into two groups. Group one received daily 60-minute yoga practices as either supervised or home practice. Group two was given supportive, coping therapy intervention. After the fourth cycle of chemotherapy both groups were assessed for levels of nausea and emesis, anxiety depression and quality of life. In a comparison of the two groups, those who had received yoga showed a significantly greater reduction of nausea and vomiting both pre and post-chemotherapy as well as a reduction of stress and anxiety. 4

Yoga has also proved helpful in a variety of other disease states. A comparative evaluation was made between yoga and conventional therapies for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The Department of Physiology at the India Institute of Medical Science in New Delhi designed a randomized control based study to assess 22 male patients with confirmed IBS. The conventional group was give loperimide tablets to control symptoms for two months. The yoga group was given 12 asanas (Vajrasana, Shashankasana, Ushtrasana, Majariasansa Padhastasana, Dhanurasana, Trikonasana in two variations, Pawanmuktsana, and Paschimottanasana) and right nostril breathing twice a day for two months. At the end of the two months both groups showed improvements in state anxiety, autonomic symptoms and reactivity and electrogastrography. The yoga group also showed enhanced parasympathetic reactivity. The study concluded that the yoga program showed additional beneficial effects over the conventional treatment. 5

Coronary artery disease has been shown to respond regular yoga practice. The Yoga Institute in Santacruze, Mumbai conducted a prospective, controlled, open trial with 71 total patients, 42 in the control group. All test subjects had confirmed coronary artery disease. Those in the study group were given a yogic program, including dietary modifications, stress management, and risk factor control measures for one year. Subjects were assessed at the outset and monitored at regular intervals throughout the test period. At the end of the study period the yoga trained group showed significant improvements in serum total cholesterol and serum LDL cholesterol, a greater regression of lesions and in improving myocardial perfusion. Also state anxiety scores improved. Over all the study indicated that clinical benefits and symptom improvments.6

Yogic practice as a lifestyle modification seems to show clinical benefits in the reduction of stress and anxiety. This reduction appears to promote greater healing, regression of disease states and increased quality of life in all of the above studies examined. The applications for better overall heath and wellness are still in the early stages in the west. However more and more western health care practitioner are becoming aware of the great benefits of yoga and referring their patients to this ancient practice. Unlike many other forms of exercise, forms of yoga can be practiced at many physical ability levels with maximum benefits, making it a good choice for almost any person at anytime. The literature suggests that Hatha yoga is not simply a physical exercise but a remedy for the mind, body and soul; the complete person. With the increased demand for quality yoga training in the west, perhaps the application for this ancient art form will become more and more a part of everyday health care.



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