Researchers have suggested that yoga improves symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder, a condition with chronic nervousness and worry, suggesting the popular practice may be helpful in treating anxiety in some people.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, found that yoga was significantly more effective for generalised anxiety disorder than standard education on stress management.
"Our findings demonstrate that yoga, which is safe and widely available, can improve symptoms for some people with this disorder and could be a valuable tool in an overall treatment plan," said study lead author Naomi M Simon from the New York University in the US.
For the study, 226 men and women with a generalised anxiety disorder were randomly assigned to three groups - either CBT, Kundalini yoga, or stress-management education, a standardized control technique.
After three months, both CBT and yoga were found to be significantly more effective for anxiety than stress management. Specifically, 54 per cent of those who practised yoga met response criteria for meaningfully improved symptoms compared to 33 per cent in the stress-education group. Of those treated with CBT, 71 per cent met these symptom improvement criteria.
Kundalini yoga included physical postures, breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, yoga theory, and meditation/mindfulness practice.Each treatment was administered in groups of three to six participants, over weekly two-hour sessions for 12 weeks with 20 minutes of daily homework assigned.
The study involved an evidence-based protocol for CBT treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, including psychoeducation, cognitive interventions (focused on identifying and adapting maladaptive thoughts and worrying), and muscle relaxation techniques.
However, after six months of follow-up, the CBT response remained significantly better than stress education (the control therapy), while yoga was no longer significantly better, suggesting CBT may have more robust, longer-lasting anxiety-reducing effects.
"Many people already seek complementary and alternative interventions, including yoga, to treat anxiety," Simon said.
"This study suggests that at least short-term there is significant value for people with a generalized anxiety disorder to give yoga a try to see if it works for them. Yoga is well-tolerated, easily accessible, and has a number of health benefits," the study author noted.
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