Where is the Evidence That Yoga Provides Anxiety Relief?

Where is the Evidence That Yoga Provides Anxiety Relief?

500-hour yoga instructor certification programBy Faye Martins

Fans of yoga claim that yoga is proven to provide anxiety relief. Evidence that yoga provides anxiety relief was scarce about 30 years ago. Given that an estimated 20 percent of Americans now take a pill for a psychological problem, anxiety relief is a significant selling point for yoga. However, is there anything more than anecdotal evidence to support this claim? The next time a yoga student asks you this question, here’s how you can respond. You can share a lot of research with students, friends, family, and yoga skeptics. Please bear in mind this subject is deep, and this article will scratch the surface. This is why so many resources and studies are provided.


The University of Rochester Study on Cancer, Sleep, and Yoga

Cancer patients or those who have previously had cancer are one of the groups of people most at risk for anxiety disorders. As many as 30 percent to 90 percent of people who have had cancer report having trouble sleeping at night; while some of this insomnia is due to cancer treatments, others have sleepless nights due to anxiety over their illness.


Coping with Bad Combinations

Anxiety and insomnia tend to form an evil alliance when we cope with challenging times. Researchers at the University of Rochester studied over 400 individuals in 12 different cities with a history of cancer who also had trouble sleeping. Half of them took yoga sessions, while the other half stuck with standard medical interventions for their sleeplessness. Those taking yoga classes were able to reduce how frequently they took a sleep aid by more than 20 percent while also reporting less daytime sleepiness and improved quality of sleep. This is just one of many studies that show yoga provides anxiety relief and relief from insomnia to anyone who wants to practice.


Harvard Review of Yoga Studies

In 2009, a Harvard Health Publications newsletter called the “Harvard Mental Health Letter” reviewed several studies involving yoga, anxiety, and depression. The newsletter article concluded that several studies from the past decade offer compelling evidence that yoga helps regulate the stress response system of the body, thereby reducing anxiety and the physical symptoms associated with it. Here are a few highlights from that newsletter article:

A German study in 2005 looked at women with depression and anxiety. After three months of yoga, these women reduced their self-reported depression by 50 percent and anxiety by 30 percent.

In a New Hampshire psychiatric hospital, schizophrenic patients who took yoga classes reported short-term improvements in anxiety, depression, hostility, and similar mental problems.


PTSD Study

An Australian study wanted to see if yoga could improve PTSD symptoms in disabled Vietnam veterans. At the end of six weeks of yoga, the PTSD symptoms of veterans in the study went from “moderate to severe” to “mild to moderate.” By comparison, those in the control group reported no significant change in their symptoms.

The studies mentioned above demonstrate that yoga provides anxiety relief, and they are just the beginning of waves of new research-based proof showing that yoga helps reduce anxiety. Without a doubt, similar studies in the future will confirm what thousands of yoga practitioners have already experienced for themselves.

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Related Resources:

Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing

Yoga for Anxiety: Meditations and Practices for Calming the Body and Mind

Practicing Mindfulness: 75 Essential Meditations to Reduce Stress, Improve Mental Health, and Find Peace in the Everyday

Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks


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Related Research

Effects of yoga on depressive symptoms in people with mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Jacinta Brinsley et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2020

Terese Kochuvilayil, Ritin S. Fernandez, Lorna J. Moxham, Heidi Lord, Albara Alomari, Leanne Hunt, Rebekkah Middleton, Elizabeth J. Halcomb, COVID‐19: Knowledge, anxiety, academic concerns and preventative behaviors among Australian and Indian undergraduate nursing students: A cross‐sectional study, Journal of Clinical Nursing, 10.1111/jocn.15634, 0, 0, (2021).

Amit Baumel, John Torous, Stav Edan, John M. Kane, There is a non-evidence-based app for that: A systematic review and mixed methods analysis of depression- and anxiety-related apps that incorporate unrecognized techniques, Journal of Affective Disorders, 10.1016/j.jad.2020.05.011, (2020).

Gustav Jonsson, Lisa Franzén, Markus B.T. Nyström, Paul A. Davis, Integrating Yoga with Psychological Group-Treatment for Mixed Depression and Anxiety in Primary Healthcare: An Explorative Pilot Study, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 10.1016/j.ctcp.2020.101250, (101250), (2020).

Danielle C Mathersul, Carla M Eising, Danielle D DeSouza, David Spiegel, Peter J Bayley, Brain and Physiological Markers of Autonomic Function Are Associated With Treatment-Related Improvements in Self-Reported Autonomic Dysfunction in Veterans With Gulf War Illness: An Exploratory Pilot Study, Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 10.1177/2164956120922812, 9, (216495612092281), (2020).

Related Studies

Gülyeter Erdoğan Yüce, Gamze Muz, Effect of yoga‐based physical activity on perceived stress, anxiety, and quality of life in young adults, Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 10.1111/ppc.12484, 56, 3, (697-704), (2020).

Vladimir Trkulja, Hrvoje Barić, Current Research on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders: An Evidence-Based Review, Anxiety Disorders, 10.1007/978-981-32-9705-0_22, (415-449), (2020).

Marco Maiello, Meredith J. Ward, Eric Bui, Mind–Body Treatments for Anxiety Disorders, Clinical Handbook of Anxiety Disorders, 10.1007/978-3-030-30687-8_14, (269-282), (2020).

A scoping review of systematic reviews of complementary medicine for musculoskeletal and mental health conditions. Ava Lorenc et al., BMJ Open, 2018

CBT, medication, and the combination are effective for childhood anxiety
Lynn M Hana et al., Evid Based Ment Health, 2019

More Research

Role of maternal mental health disorders on stillbirth and infant mortality risk: a protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis. Akilew A. Adane et al., BMJ Open, 2020

Yoga practice in the UK: a cross-sectional survey of motivation, health benefits, and behaviors.
Tina Cartwright et al., BMJ Open, 2020

Yoga and mindfulness for anxiety and depression and the role of mental health professionals: a literature review. Nicole Butterfield, The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, 2016

Gestational Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Allergic Conditions
Endocrinology Advisor, 2020

Long-term Outcome of Cognitive Behavior Therapy Clinical Trials in Central Scotland
Professor Tom Walley, Clinical Governance: An International Journal, 2006


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