Raise Your Mood With Yoga

In an article by Michael Craig Miller, M.D., editor-in-chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter (and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School), he wrote about some recent studies on yoga. Here are some excerpts:

"But results from the growing number of randomized controlled trials, the most rigorous standard for proving effectiveness, suggest that yoga practices may be helpful for both anxiety and depression. In this respect, yoga is like other self-soothing techniques, such as meditation, relaxation, exercise, or even socializing with friends."

"It's not clear exactly how yoga works to improve mood, but preliminary evidence suggests its benefit is similar to that of exercise and relaxation techniques."

"[In one study] all of the participants had experienced emotional distress for at least half of the previous 90 days. Although they were not formally diagnosed with depression, they reported higher-than-average levels of stress, anxiety and depression. At the end of three months, women in the yoga group reported improvements in those three areas. They also had more energy. Depression scores improved by 50%, anxiety scores by 30%, and overall well-being scores by 65%. Complaints of headaches, back pain, and poor sleep quality also cleared up much more often in the yoga group than in the control group."

"One uncontrolled study from 2005 described the effects of a single yoga class for inpatients at a New Hampshire psychiatric hospital. The 113 participants included people with bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia. Before the class, they answered a questionnaire. After the class, average levels of tension, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility and fatigue dropped significantly when they repeated the questionnaire. Patients who chose to participate in additional classes experienced similar short-term positive effects."

"Although many forms of yoga are safe, some are strenuous and may not be appropriate for everyone. In particular, elderly patients or those with mobility problems may want to check first with a clinician before choosing yoga as a treatment option."

"But for many patients dealing with depression, anxiety or stress, yoga may be a very appealing way to better manage symptoms. Indeed, the scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low-risk, high-benefit way to improve overall health."

Learning with a DVD is an excellent way to get started. Here are a few we recommend:

Yoga for Dummies

Yoga for Beginners

AM/PM Yoga for Beginners

Yoga Journal's: Beginning Yoga Step by Step

Yoga for Every Body

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