Yoga for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - Adjunct Therapy

Yoga for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

About Yoga for Obsessive Compulsive DisorderBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP and Gopi Rao

Could Yoga for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder be beneficial? What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)? What is the primary form of therapy for OCD? In what ways can Yoga training help as a form of therapy? Which combination of therapeutic methods would be most beneficial? OCD is complicated, and professional counseling will likely recommend more than one therapeutic method for a patient to cope with all the baggage and potential situations daily life throws at us.



Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is classified as an anxiety disorder. OCD is also classified as a psychiatric disorder. Either way, the person suffering from OCD experiences involuntary, intrusive thoughts. When a person begins to take these intrusive thoughts seriously, anxiety grows – based upon exaggerated internal fears, which are not based upon reality.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly known as OCD, is a mental health condition characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). It goes far beyond simply being a neat freak or having occasional worries. OCD can profoundly impact a person’s daily life, relationships, and well-being.

The obsessions experienced by individuals with OCD are often irrational and uncontrollable. They may include fears of contamination, unwanted thoughts of harming oneself or others, excessive doubt and need for reassurance, or an overwhelming desire for symmetry and order. These obsessions can be distressing and cause intense anxiety.

To cope with the distress caused by their obsessions, people with OCD typically engage in compulsive behaviors. These rituals or repetitive actions temporarily relieve anxiety but become a never-ending cycle reinforcing the disorder. Common compulsions include excessive hand washing, checking locks repeatedly, counting objects over and over again, or arranging items symmetrically.

OCD affects people from all walks of life regardless of age or gender. Approximately 2-3% of the global population is estimated to struggle with this disorder at some point. If left untreated, it can significantly impair one’s quality of life.

Understanding what OCD entails is crucial in recognizing its symptoms and seeking appropriate support and treatment options to manage its impact effectively.


Compulsive Actions

OCD can also cause compulsive actions. These compulsive rituals may include excessive hoarding, counting, cleaning, or checking. If OCD is allowed to persist without therapy, it can become a disabling condition that could continue throughout one’s life.

The Different Types of OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a complex mental health condition affecting millions worldwide. While OCD manifests differently in each individual, there are common patterns and themes known as “types” of OCD. Understanding these different types can help individuals with OCD identify their struggles and seek appropriate treatment.

One type of OCD is contamination or germ-related obsessions. People with this type experience overwhelming fear and anxiety about dirt, germs, or illnesses. They may use excessive handwashing or avoid certain places altogether to mitigate their concerns.

Another type is symmetry and orderliness obsession. Individuals with this subtype feel compelled to arrange objects symmetrically or follow strict routines to maintain control and calmness.

More Variations of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Hoarding disorder is another manifestation of OCD, where people have difficulty discarding items, leading to cluttered living spaces that impact daily functioning.

Intrusive thoughts obsession involves persistent unwanted thoughts or images that often center around harm to oneself or others. These intrusive thoughts can be distressing and lead individuals to perform rituals or mental acts to neutralize them.

There’s the category of checking compulsions – constantly verifying things like locked doors, turned-off appliances, etc., due to an extreme fear of something terrible happening if they don’t check repeatedly.

It’s important to note that many individuals may have overlapping symptoms from various types of OCD rather than fitting neatly into one category alone. The goal should always be personalized treatment tailored specifically for each person’s unique challenges.



In most cases where professional help is sought (for any form of anxiety), a person experiencing the symptoms mentioned above will benefit from medical or psychiatric counseling. In Western societies, psychiatric counseling is usually the primary therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.


Finding the Cause

The medical or psychiatric objective is to find a cause and a solution for compulsive behavior through therapy, medication, or balancing a nutritional deficiency. The Yogic approach is also based on finding a cause and a key to suffering.


The Yogic Approach

Pranayama, mantra, asana, meditation, and relaxation techniques are all useful. Although the Yogic diet parallels Ayurvedic recommendations, consulting directly with an Ayurvedic doctor would be wise. For the patient and doctor to get the whole picture, it is always good to have a direct consultation.

How Yoga Can Help with OCD?

One area where yoga shows promise is helping individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). While it may not be a cure-all solution, incorporating yoga into your treatment plan can provide relief and support.

One way yoga can assist those with OCD is by promoting relaxation and reducing stress levels. The deep breathing techniques employed during a yoga session help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to calm the body and mind. By engaging in these calming practices regularly, individuals may experience reduced anxiety symptoms associated with their obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors.

Additionally, practicing yoga encourages mindfulness – being present in the moment without judgment. This heightened awareness allows individuals to observe intrusive thoughts without becoming entangled. Through regular practice, they can develop greater control over their responses to these thoughts, ultimately reducing their power over them.

Holistic Path to Releasing Tension

Furthermore, yoga provides a physical outlet for releasing tension and pent-up energy often experienced by those with OCD. Engaging in gentle movements and stretches promotes circulation while increasing flexibility and strength. These physical benefits contribute to overall well-being while providing an avenue for channeling excess energy away from obsessive tendencies.

It’s important to note that while there are potential benefits of using yoga as part of an OCD management strategy, it should not replace professional therapy or medication. It should be used as a complementary approach alongside other evidence-based treatments recommended by healthcare professionals.

By integrating regular yoga sessions into your routine under proper guidance from qualified instructors who understand your specific needs related to OCD management, you may find additional tools for coping with intrusive thoughts or compulsions.


Training the Mind

In the West, Yoga tends to be an adjunct therapy. Doctors recommend Yoga sessions for a variety of anxiety disorders. The reason is – there will be no ill side effects from Yoga practice while a patient is working toward recovery.

This is a crucial issue: The person suffering from OCD must ultimately want a recovery and develop the internal power to prevent a relapse. Yogic methods teach one to train the mind. The truth is – we all have fears and intrusive thoughts. Therapeutic forms of Yoga teach us to prioritize and eliminate intrusive thoughts.

How Does Yoga Train the Mind?

Yoga is not just about physical postures and flexibility but also a powerful tool for training the mind. Through various yoga practices, individuals with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can find relief from their symptoms and develop a greater sense of mental well-being.

One way that yoga helps train the mind is through deep breathing exercises. By focusing on the breath and bringing awareness to each inhale and exhale, individuals can learn to calm their racing thoughts and reduce anxiety. This practice of conscious breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation in both body and mind.

In addition to breathwork, yoga incorporates mindfulness techniques that cultivate present-moment awareness. By actively observing one’s thoughts without judgment or attachment, individuals with OCD can begin to detach from obsessive thinking patterns. This shift in perspective allows them to gain control over their thoughts rather than being controlled by them.

Furthermore, practicing yoga encourages self-reflection and introspection. Through meditation and guided visualization exercises, individuals can explore their inner landscape and uncover more profound layers of consciousness. This process of self-discovery can bring deep insights into patterns of behavior associated with OCD.

Focus and Concentration

Another aspect of yoga that trains the mind is its emphasis on focus and concentration. During asana (physical posture) practice, practitioners are encouraged to stay fully present in each movement while maintaining steady attention on the breath or specific points within the body. This heightened focus helps redirect energy from intrusive thoughts towards a more centered state.

Yoga offers a holistic approach to training the mind by combining physical movement with mindful awareness practices such as breathwork, mindfulness techniques, self-reflection, and concentration exercises. By incorporating these practices into their daily routine, individuals with OCD can experience significant improvements in managing their symptoms while cultivating mental clarity and overall well-being.


Student Needs

Yoga teachers should be prepared for the needs of students who need help with mental and emotional health. Schools and studios should also be familiar with competent counselors and other holistic services in their local area.

With research, yoga has become a therapeutic practice for various mental health conditions, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). However, it is crucial to consider both the pros and cons before embarking on a yoga journey to manage your OCD symptoms.

Pros and Cons of Yoga for OCD

One of the significant benefits of incorporating yoga into an OCD treatment plan is its ability to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. The gentle stretching, deep breathing exercises, and meditation techniques can help calm the mind and alleviate stress associated with obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

Furthermore, practicing yoga can enhance self-awareness and mindfulness. By focusing on breath control and body movements during yoga poses, individuals with OCD can develop a greater sense of present-moment awareness. This heightened level of consciousness can assist in breaking free from recurrent obsessions or compulsions that disrupt daily life.

Another advantage of yoga is its accessibility. It doesn’t require special equipment or large spaces, making it easily accessible to anyone with OCD. You can practice at home or join group classes tailored to individuals with mental health issues like OCD.

Each Case is Unique

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that while yoga may benefit many people with OCD, it might not work equally well for everyone. Each individual’s experience varies based on personal factors such as the severity of symptoms, physical limitations, or preferences in exercise routines.

Additionally, some people find certain aspects of yoga challenging due to specific obsessions or compulsions related to body image or perfectionism. It’s essential to approach the practice without judgment towards oneself if these challenges arise during sessions.

The potential advantages of integrating yoga into an overall treatment plan should be considered alongside other evidence-based therapies prescribed by healthcare professionals specializing in OCD management.


What to Expect from Yoga Classes for OCD

Yoga classes can benefit your treatment plan if you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). What exactly can you expect from these classes? Let’s take a closer look.

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that yoga is not a cure for OCD. It is simply one tool in your arsenal that can help manage symptoms and promote overall well-being. In yoga classes specifically tailored for individuals with OCD, you can expect a supportive environment where everyone understands your challenges.

During these classes, you will likely engage in various physical postures or “asanas” to increase strength and flexibility. These movements are accompanied by controlled breathing exercises known as “pranayama.” Combining mindful movement and focused breathwork helps calm the nervous system and create a sense of peace and relaxation.

In addition to the physical aspects, yoga classes for OCD may also incorporate meditation practices. Meditation cultivates mindfulness, which allows us to observe our thoughts without judgment or attachment. This awareness can be beneficial when dealing with intrusive thoughts or obsessive patterns.

Furthermore, many yoga instructors who specialize in working with individuals with mental health conditions like OCD often provide modifications or alternatives for certain poses if needed. This ensures that all participants feel comfortable and safe during their practice.

Attending regular yoga classes for OCD provides an opportunity to connect with others who share similar experiences. Building a support network within the class setting can be incredibly empowering as you navigate your journey towards managing your condition more effectively.

Remember, each person’s experience with yoga will be unique, so it’s essential to approach this practice with an open mind and realistic expectations. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen or changing treatments.

Referring Students

Students sometimes ask for various recommendations concerning holistic, medical, and counseling services. Help for an OCD recovery may require a variety of professional services. It is wise to point needful students toward the best professionals in their area. As teachers, we are not offering cures, but Yoga for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a significant part of the mix.

Incorporating yoga into your routine can be a beneficial tool for managing Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The practice of yoga offers a holistic approach that combines physical movement, breathwork, and mindfulness techniques to help train the mind and reduce symptoms of OCD.



By engaging in regular yoga sessions, individuals with OCD may experience decreased anxiety levels and intrusive thoughts. The focused attention required during yoga can divert the mind from obsessive patterns and promote present-moment awareness.

While there are no guarantees that yoga will eliminate OCD symptoms, it can serve as an effective complementary therapy alongside other treatment methods, such as medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new therapeutic practices.

Remember, everyone’s journey with OCD is unique. What works for one person may not work for another. However, by exploring the benefits of yoga and finding what feels suitable for you, you have the potential to discover new tools to manage your condition and thrive on your path towards well-being.

Permit yourself to explore the transformative effects of yoga on both body and mind. Embrace this opportunity to cultivate inner peace, balance emotions, and strengthen resilience – one mindful breath at a time.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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4 thoughts on “Yoga for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder”

  1. Hi,
    I am a counsellor and work at times with OCD. Your article was very interesting, thankyou. I, too teach yoga , where able I I use it as a form of therapy and encourage the practice.

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