Yoga effective in treating psychiatric disorders

Yoga, whose all-round benefits are increasingly being accepted across the world, has now been found useful in treating mental and psychiatric disorders, a number of scientific studies have found.

`Some believe that yoga should be used only for prevention and health promotion and not as a therapy for illnesses,` said B.N. Gangadhar, who heads the psychiatry department at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) here.

`The reality is that it is being increasingly used as a method for treating various disorders, either alone or as in addition to other therapies, including psychiatric ones,` Gangadhar, also director, Advanced Centre for Yoga at NIMHANS said.

A study co-authored by Gangadhar and three associates examined the effect of yoga as a therapy supplementing medical treatment of schizophrenia, a severe mental condition, which registers failure rates as high as 50 to 60 percent. The condition is ranked as the ninth leading cause of mental disability worldwide.

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Roughly half of 61 schizophrenia patients were randomly assigned to yoga therapy and the other half to physical exercise for four months. Ten from each group had dropped out during the therapy.

The yoga therapy group showed significantly greater improvement in mental or behavioural disorders than those in the physical exercise group. The yoga group also performed better in social and occupational functioning.

Some of the symptoms of schizophrenia are hallucinations (hearing voices), delusions (often bizarre) and disorganized thinking and speech, which render the patient`s life chaotic and distressful.

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Another study led by Gangadhar found that Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) significantly lowered stress by bringing down high plasma cortisol levels among patients, which indicate stress or illness. SKY is a method of breath control pioneered by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar`s Art of Living Foundation.

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