Does Yoga Improve Mental Health?

Information sourced from Journal Watch:

Does Yoga Improve Mental Health?

Possibly, according to this careful review, which highlights numerous problems with the few studies conducted.

Given that relaxation, mindfulness, controlled breathing, and physical activity all have benefits in various mood and anxiety disorders, it seems likely that yoga, which incorporates many of these practices, would be similarly beneficial. In a systematic review, these researchers identified 16 published, randomized, controlled trials of sufficient quality that examined the effects of yoga in depression, schizophrenia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep disturbance, and eating and cognitive disorders.

Although there was “suggested” (Grade B) evidence of “potential benefit” of yoga for depression and as a treatment adjunctive to medication for schizophrenia and ADHD, the reviewers rated these studies as “low quality” for various reasons. For example, the studies enrolled mildly ill, nondiagnosed subjects (e.g., self-reported depressive symptoms) and used crossover designs (ADHD), wait-list controls (depression and schizophrenia), or inactive controls (ADHD). Some studies were not double-blinded (ADHD) or enrolled small samples, and studies rarely described how randomization occurred.

Comment: The flaws in these studies are consistent with the fact that none were published in high-impact journals and only a few in moderate-impact journals. Although the authors spin the reviews as providing “emerging evidence” to support popular beliefs about yoga, the evidence is meager and poor-quality. Nonetheless, it is likely that some patients will benefit from yoga and very unlikely that any will suffer harm or adverse effects. More-rigorous trials in diagnosed depression are now under way, so stay tuned.

€” Peter Roy-Byrne, MD

Published in Journal Watch Psychiatry May 6, 2013

CITATION:

Balasubramaniam M et al. Yoga on our minds: A systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatric disorders. Front Psychiatry 2013 Jan 25; [e-pub ahead of print]. [Link to free full-text Front Psychiatry article PDF | PubMed ® abstract]

Copyright © 2013. Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.

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