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Yoga is being more and more widely accepted by the health care community as a treatment modality, not simply for stretching and flexibility, but as having significant effects in altering mood, mental health symptoms, and overall quality of life. Yoga has not only entered the mainstream, but has infiltrated the research community as well through funding from the National Center for Complementary Medicine (NIH - NCCM). Finding Freedom Within upholds that Yoga is a science, and thus must be supported by valid research. We support and partner with any organizations, either academic or private, that promote research on Yoga and Meditation. Below we provide a slew of abstracts from research papers that highlight the benefits of Yoga.
Preliminary findings support the potential of yoga as a complementary treatment of depressed patients who are taking anti-depressant medications but who are only in partial remission. The purpose of this article is to present further data on the intervention, focusing on individual differences in psychological, emotional and biological processes affecting treatment outcome. Twenty-seven women and 10 men were enrolled in the study, of whom 17 completed the intervention and pre- and post-intervention assessment data. The intervention consisted of 20 classes led by senior Iyengar yoga teachers, in three courses of 20 yoga classes each. All participants were diagnosed with unipolar major depression in partial remission. Psychological and biological characteristics were assessed pre- and post-intervention, and participants rated their mood states before and after each class. Significant reductions were shown for depression, anger, anxiety, neurotic symptoms and low frequency heart rate variability in the 17 completers. Eleven out of these completers achieved remission levels post-intervention. Participants who remitted differed from the non-remitters at intake on several traits and on physiological measures indicative of a greater capacity for emotional regulation. Moods improved from before to after the yoga classes. Yoga appears to be a promising intervention for depression; it is cost-effective and easy to implement. It produces many beneficial emotional, psychological and biological effects, as supported by observations in this study. The physiological methods are especially useful as they provide objective markers of the processes and effectiveness of treatment. These observations may help guide further clinical application of yoga in depression and other mental health disorders, and future research on the processes and mechanisms.
A previous study of 22 medical patients with DSM-III-R-defined anxiety disorders showed clinically and statistically significant improvements in subjective and objective symptoms of anxiety and panic following an 8-week outpatient physician-referred group stress reduction intervention based on mindfulness meditation. Twenty subjects demonstrated significant reductions in Hamilton and Beck Anxiety and Depression scores post-intervention and at 3-month follow-up. In this study, 3-year follow-up data were obtained and analyzed on 18 of the original 22 subjects to probe long-term effects. Repeated measures analysis showed maintenance of the gains obtained in the original study on the Hamilton [F(2,32) = 13.22; p < 0.001] and Beck [F(2,32) = 9.83; p < 0.001] anxiety scales as well as on their respective depression scales, on the Hamilton panic score, the number and severity of panic attacks, and on the Mobility Index-Accompanied and the Fear Survey. A 3-year follow-up comparison of this cohort with a larger group of subjects from the intervention who had met criteria for screening for the original study suggests generalizability of the results obtained with the smaller, more intensively studied cohort. Ongoing compliance with the meditation practice was also demonstrated in the majority of subjects at 3 years. We conclude that an intensive but time-limited group stress reduction intervention based on mindfulness meditation can have long-term beneficial effects in the treatment of people diagnosed with anxiety disorders.
A month after the December 2004 tsunami the effect of a 1 week yoga program was evaluated on self rated fear, anxiety, sadness and disturbed sleep in 47 survivors in the Andaman Islands. Polygraph recordings of the heart rate, breath rate and skin resistance were also made. Among the 47 people, 31 were settlers from the mainland (i.e. India, ML group) and 16 were endogenous people (EP group). There was a significant decrease in self rated fear, anxiety, sadness and disturbed sleep in both groups, and in the heart and breath rate in the ML group, and in thebreath rate alone in the EP group, following yoga (P < 0.05, t-test). This suggests that yoga practice may be useful in the management of stress following a natural disaster in people with widely differing social, cultural and spiritual beliefs.
Background: Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years to improve physical and emotional well-being. Empirical research on yoga has been ongoing for several decades, including several recent studies conducted with cancer patients and survivors.
Methods: This review provides a general introduction to yoga and a detailed review of yoga research in cancer.
Results: Nine studies conducted with cancer patients and survivors yielded modest improvements in sleep quality, mood, stress, cancer-related distress, cancer-related symptoms, and overall quality of life. Studies conducted in other
patient populations and healthy individuals have shown beneficial effects on psychological and somatic symptoms, as well as other aspects of physical function.
Conclusions: Results from the emerging literature on yoga and cancer provide preliminary support for the feasibility and efficacy of yoga interventions for cancer patients, although controlled trials are lacking. Further research is required to determine the reliability of these effects and to identify their underlying mechanisms.
Objective: To address the mechanisms underlying hatha yoga’s potential stress-reduction benefits, we compared inflammatory and endocrine responses of novice and expert yoga practitioners before, during, and after a restorative hatha yoga session, as well as in two control conditions. Stressors before each of the three conditions provided data on the extent to which yoga speeded an individual’s physiological recovery.
Methods: A total of 50 healthy women (mean age, 41.32 years; range, 30–65 years), 25 novices and 25 experts, were exposed to each of the conditions (yoga, movement control, and passive-video control) during three separate visits.
Results: The yoga session boosted participants’ positive affect compared with the control conditions, but no overall differences in inflammatory or endocrine responses were unique to the yoga session. Importantly, even though novices and experts did not differ on key dimensions, including age, abdominal adiposity, and cardiorespiratory fitness, novices’ serum interleukin (IL)-6 levels were 41% higher than those of experts across sessions, and the odds of a novice having detectable C-reactive protein (CRP) were 4.75 times as high as that of an expert. Differences in stress responses between experts and novices provided one plausible mechanism for their divergent serum IL-6 data; experts produced less lipopolysaccharide-stimulated IL-6 in response to the stressor than novices, and IL-6 promotes CRP production.
Conclusion: The ability to minimize inflammatory responses to stressful encounters influences the burden that stressors place on an individual. If yoga dampens or limits stress-related changes, then regular practice could have substantial health benefits.
CONTEXT: Yoga teachers and students often report that yoga has an uplifting effect on their moods, but scientific research on yoga and depression is limited. OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of a short-term Iyengar yoga course on mood in mildly depressed young adults. DESIGN: Young adults pre-screened for mild levels of depression were randomly assigned to a yoga course or wait-list control group. SETTING: College campus recreation center. PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-eight volunteers ages 18 to 29. At intake, all participants were experiencing mild levels of depression, but had received no current psychiatric diagnoses or treatments. None had significant yoga experience. INTERVENTION: Subjects in the yoga group attended two 1-hour Iyengar yoga classes each week for 5 consecutive weeks. The classes emphasized yoga postures thought to alleviate depression, particularly back bends, standing poses, and inversions. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Beck Depression Inventory, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Profile of Mood States, morning cortisol levels. RESULTS: Subjects who participated in the yoga course demonstrated significant decreases in self-reported symptoms of depression and trait anxiety. These effects emerged by the middle of the yoga course and were maintained by the end. Changes also were observed in acute mood, with subjects reporting decreased levels of negative mood and fatigue following yoga classes. Finally, there was a trend for higher morning cortisol levels in the yoga group by the end of the yoga course, compared to controls. These findings provide suggestive evidence of the utility of yoga asanas in improving mood and support the need for future studies with larger samples and more complex study designs to more fully evaluate the effects of yoga on mood disturbances.
Previous research indicates that long-term meditation practice is associated with altered resting electroencephalogram patterns, suggestive of long lasting changes in brain activity. We hypothesized that meditation practice might also be associated with changes in the brain’s physical structure. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess cortical thickness in 20 participants with extensive Insight meditation experience, which involves focused attention to internal experiences. Brain regions associated with attention, interoception and sensory processing were thicker in meditation participants than matched controls, including the prefrontal cortex and right anterior insula. Between-group differences in prefrontal cortical thickness were most pronounced in older participants, suggesting that meditation might offset age-related cortical thinning. Finally, the thickness of two regions correlated with meditation experience. These data provide the first structural evidence for experience-dependent cortical plasticity associated with meditation practice.
This article describes the quantitative results of a study conducted at Maui Community Correctional Center in Hawaii. The program, Free Inside, was evaluated to determine its effectiveness as a rehabilitative tool for inmates. Each of the participants engaged in twelve-week cycles of twice weekly, hour-long classes in yoga, meditation, and chi gung practice. The findings reveal an association between inmate participation and increased awareness, self-esteem, sense of hope, and compassion. The authors recommend that similar programming become a part of the inmate experience in an effort to help rehabilitate and better prepare inmates for re-entry.