Guest Blog by Ashley Burns
Traditionally, healthcare providers treat mental health conditions with medication and forms of therapy. Alternative methods of treatment are not considered as often. One alternative method for specific mental health conditions, yoga therapy, and thrives on a calm and patient environment. Yoga inspires body awareness through poses and controlled breathing techniques. When yoga therapy is used as complementary treatment for both anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, it can reduce physical stress responses such as high heart rate, blood pressure and respiration levels in the same vein as exercise and self-soothing techniques.
Multiple studies reveal how yoga therapy can improve mental health and become proper treatment for symptoms of depression or anxiety disorders, according to a Harvard Mental Health Letter.
Controlled breathing techniques, which are a significant aspect of yoga, can aid in the treatment of depression. In 2005, a German study evaluated two different groups of women with emotional distress; one group practiced yoga and the other did not receive any intervention. The yoga group practiced yoga two times a week for three months. The researchers noted that the women in the yoga group reported improvements in stress, depression, anxiety, fatigue and other factors associated with emotional distress at the end of the study. The women also reported less physical pain and better sleep compared with the control group.
Along with depression symptoms, yoga therapy has also been shown to help with PTSD symptoms. Individuals with PTSD experience unwanted flashbacks or nightmares, a feeling of constant fear or danger, depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability and more, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. A study revealed that a group of United States active duty military personnel deployed in Iraq who practiced yoga felt less combat stress than a group that did not, according to an article in the Huffington Post. In the study, 35 United States Air Force and army personnel participated in nine sessions of the “Yoga Warrior method,” a mash-up of hatha yoga and sensory-based occupational therapy techniques. After the nine sessions, the yoga group reported increased feelings of relaxation, reduced anger and sleep improvement.
Yoga therapy has proven to be a capable addition to the treatment of people with depression or anxiety disorders like PTSD. A handful of descriptive preliminary studies show that yoga therapy can improve the symptoms of the participants with specific conditions. Yoga therapy is a low-risk option for all involved, so medical malpractice or side effects aren’t as widespread as they are in traditional healthcare.