Study Links Yoga to Reduction of Mental Stress Disorders

After a particularly stressful workday many of us turn to yoga to unwind and calm the nerves. Same goes with menstrual cramps, many women do a little downward dog in order to ease the pain. Well a new study from the Duke University Medical Center has now found that that yoga does has positive effects on mild depression, sleep problems, and symptoms of psychiatric disorders—such as schizophrenia and ADHD.

“Most people already [associate] yoga [with] a calming effect. [Physically], people feel better after doing the physical exercise…mentally, people feel calmer, sharper, maybe more content,” says Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center, and the study’s lead author.

Researchers involved in this study were trying to find a strong connection between practicing yoga and its ability to relieve mental stress. This particular study analyzed 16 previous studies that monitored the effects of yoga on mental-health issues—such as depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, sleep complaints and eating disorders to cognitive problems, and some study findings even indicated that yoga have an affect similar to antidepressants and psychotherapy on the mind, encouraging the release of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters (or feel-good agents), and reduce inflammation and stress.

Doraiswamy claims that this small study has produced adequate evidence to merit a larger, national study on the positive link between yoga and mental health.

“Many millions of Americans have mental illnesses and are popping psychiatric pills daily…We still need to do further, large-scale studies before we are ready to conclude that people with mental illnesses can turn to yoga as a first-line treatment…[until then]…we are not saying throw away your Prozac and turn to yoga. We’re saying it has the promise and potential [and] it doesn’t hurt to add yoga to existing treatments so patients can take advantage of any potential benefits.”



Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.