Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Yoga as Psychotherapy

Here’s the latest news from the war against mental illness: scientists have just discovered that yoga works.

Now we can add yoga to the list of therapies that the mental health profession grudgingly accepts. Among them is aerobic exercise, notable for being an effective treatment for some forms of depression.

Time magazine notes the yoga has become a major cultural phenomenon. Most of the people who do yoga swear that it relieves anxiety and stress. Others believe it provides significant help with depression. Could that many people be wrong? Apparently not. So, science is now playing catch-up.

Yes, we do know that there are some minor risks to it, but it compares well with medication, it costs less, and it does not require you to be drugged out.

Compared to many forms of therapy, yoga does not tell you what to think, what to believe or which cause to favor.

Time reports:

“Most individuals already know that yoga produces some kind of a calming effect. Individually, people feel better after doing the physical exercise,” says lead study author Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center. “Mentally, people feel calmer, sharper, maybe more content. We thought it’s time to see if we could pull all [the literature] together … to see if there’s enough evidence that the benefits individual people notice can be used to help people with mental illness.”

Their findings suggest that yoga does in fact have positive effects on mild depression and sleep problems, and it improves the symptoms of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and ADHD among patients using medication.

Unfortunately, the current research has only studied a small number of people. It is too soon to say whether people should throw away their Prozac and Xanax and take up yoga.

Time concludes:

But while the research is promising, yoga likely won’t be a panacea for mental illness. Nor should patients try to replace their medications with the practice. “What we are saying is that we still need to do further, large-scale studies before we are ready to conclude that people with mental illnesses can turn to yoga as a first-line treatment,” says Doraiswamy. ”We are not saying throw away your Prozac and turn to yoga. We’re saying it has the promise and potential. If a large national study were done, it could turn out that yoga is just as good and may be a low cost alternative to people with unmet needs.” In the meantime, he says it doesn’t hurt to add yoga to existing treatments so patients can take advantage of any potential benefits.

We should underscore the idea that yoga and aerobic exercise are not panaceas. Unfortunately, the recent hype over Prozac and even the prior hype over psychoanalysis tended to persuade people that taking a magic pill or lying on a magic couch would make all of their problems go away.

If, as often happens, people who suffer anxiety and depression have difficulty knowing how to conduct their lives. They are very good at feeling their feelings but they do not know how to relate those feelings to their life situation. They have been convinced by the therapy culture that feelings are all in the mind.

More than that, they have never learned how to manage their lives more productively and constructively, the better to diminish their mental agony.


DeNihilist said...

Remember the roots of yoga. It was originaly a physical form of meditation, leading to enlightenment. So it kinda makes sense that it would help the mental aspects of life.

{Generally put, yoga is a disciplined method utilized for attaining a goal.[10] The ultimate goal of Yoga is moksha though the exact definition of what form this takes depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is conjugated. Bhakti schools of Vaishnavism combine yoga with devotion to enjoy an eternal presence of Vishnu.[13] In Shaiva theology, yoga is used to unite kundalini with Shiva.[14] Mahabharata defines the purpose of yoga as the experience of Brahman or Ātman pervading all things.[15] In the specific sense of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the purpose of yoga is defined as citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (the cessation of the peturbations of consciousness).[10] In contemporary times, the physical postures of yoga are used to alleviate health problems, reduce stress and make the spine supple. Yoga is also used as a complete exercise program and physical therapy routine.[16]}


Sam L. said...

I would not accept TIME's conclusions as conclusive.

Valeryi said...
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