Yoga Research in Anxiety Disorders

The practice of Yoga is designed to quiet the mind. The lungs expand and rest, expand and rest. The slow, even breaths bring needed oxygen to every cell in the body. The muscles stretch, expand and rest, become more elastic. The eyes begin to focus not on the outer world, but on the spirit within.

The movements in Yoga are measured and deliberate. A practitioner breaths deeply while moving her body into a pose. The pose is held for the beat of a breath, and then slowly the body returns to a state of rest, for the beat of breath. The practitioner breaths in, breaths out.

This decelerated rhythm creates a kind of safe environment for anyone suffering from anxiety. The physiological effect of Yoga on neurotransmitters in the brain has been a subject of several studies, the most notable being a study published in the May 2007 issue of the “Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine”.

The results demonstrated that those who practiced Yoga on a daily basis had higher levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric, or GABA. Low levels of gamma-aminobutyric have been associated with depression and anxiety disorders. Practicing Yoga on a consistent basis, then, boosts the level of these neurotransmitters.

But the study, like most others, is inconclusive as to establishing Yoga as therapy for anxiety disorders. The link between fewer episodes and Yoga, as of this writing, is anecdotal. Rather than a therapy, Yoga is effectively enhancing established treatments, such as drug and psychiatric therapies.

Yoga is being promoted as a stress management technique for those with anxiety disorders. The Mayo Clinic, in its book, “Mayo Clinic Guide to Alternative Medicine 2007” cites Yoga as therapy for anxiety and stress, stating, “Its quiet, precise movements focus your mind”.

During an anxiety attack, the mind is in an “unreasonable” state, that is, the perceived threat or danger is very likely unreal. If Yoga is meant to release the mind from subjective realities, then Yoga may free the mind of distorted perceptions as well. Yoga may allow those suffering from anxiety disorders to focus their minds and silence the fear.

Source: By Shelly Mcrae,

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