Studying Yoga: A National Priority?
Yes, that’s right. It was published on the Yoga Journal that P. Murali Doraiswamy, M.D. appeared on CBS, was claiming that ‘If there was a drug that could mimic the effects of yoga, it would probably be the world’s best-selling drug’.
I do believe yoga has many health benefits!
Doraiswamy is talking about Yoga’s benefits, in addition to relaxation, also he include helping those with ‘mild depression, insomnia and ADHD.’ And he says ‘It affects virtually every tissue and every system in our body.’ I’ll agree. But I think studying health, nutrition and fitness should be an international priority too!
The 5,000-year-old Indian practice — may have positive effects on major psychiatric disorders, including depression, schizophrenia and sleep problems, according to a review of over 100 studies. Once thought of as a mystical spiritual practice taught by swamis to devout practitioners sitting cross-legged in a cave somewhere, yoga is now everywhere, it has joined the mainstream as both a favorite of celebrities and cultural staple for health consumers.
It is practiced by 15.8 million adults in the United States alone, according to data from the Harris Interactive Service. Although many people seek out their first yoga class looking for a mild form of exercise to keep them in shape and relax them, many find an added bonus — that yoga can calm the mind as much as it can relieve stress in the body. And a study published today in Frontiers in Psychiatry suggests it can also help with the symptoms of serious illnesses.
The analysis reviewed in these more than 100 studies, the effect yoga has on depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, sleep complaints, eating disorders and cognition problems. It was found that yoga had positive effects on mild depression and sleep complaints even in the absence of drug treatments, and improved symptoms associated with schizophrenia and ADHD in patients on medication.
Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy is a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center and author of the study. He said yoga helps psychiatric conditions by reducing stress and affecting our emotions and mental status.
“The physical aspects of yoga do affect endorphins, serotonin, and blood flow,” he says. “Yoga also enhances parasympathetic system, which is how it produces the relaxation response and combats stress. Plus yoga also likely affects dozens of other brain chemicals such as antioxidants and reduces inflammatory changes. Long term practice can change brain circuits — what we call neuroplasticity — and enhances cognitive reserve (i.e. our resilience to damage by effects of aging and stress). Yoga also releases nerve growth factors that can boost strength of nerve connection and might even lead to production of new connections. We still don’t fully understand all the many effects and in some studies yoga has been found to affect the function of as many as 5000 different genes.“
Doraiswamys study finds regularly engaging in pranayama (breath control practice) and hatha yoga practices beneficial. “However, yoga has become such a cultural phenomenon that it has become difficult for physicians and patients to differentiate legitimate claims from hype,” researchers said in a statement. “Our goal was to examine whether the evidence matched the promise,” they wrote in the study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.
Dr. Murali Doraiswamy explained that the emerging scientific evidence in support of yoga on psychiatric disorders is “highly promising” and showed that it may not only help to improve symptoms, but also play ancillary role in the prevention of stress-related mental illnesses. Doraiswamy said his review is preliminary, and based mostly on studies with small samples. He recommends more study, particularly of yoga’s impact on clinical depression and anxiety disorders.
New York Times senior science writer William J. Broad has written about the downside of yoga. Commenting on the study, he said yoga’s benefits outweigh its risks. “A century and a half of science suggests that yoga is a great antidote for depression and related disorders,” said Broad, author of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards (Simon & Schuster, February 2012). “The risks of yoga tend to be few and rare while the benefits are many and commonplace.”
The review found evidence from biomarker studies showing that yoga influences key elements of the human body thought to play a role in mental health in similar ways to that of antidepressants and psychotherapy. One study found that the exercise affects inflammation, neurotransmitters, oxidative stress, lipids, growth factors and second messengers.
“While there has been an increase in the number of medications available for mental health disorders, many of which can be life-saving for patients, there remains a considerable unmet need,” Dr. Meera Balasubramaniam, lead author of the study, said.
Poor compliance and relapse as well as treatment resistance are growing problems, and medications are expensive and can leave patients with significant side-effects. “The search for improved treatments, including non-drug based, to meet the holistic needs of patients is of paramount importance and we call for more research into yoga as a global priority,” said Doraiswamy.
So, that’s really good news again!!
Yoga for the Heart
A week after researchers announced evidence that yoga is good for the mind, a new study has found it appears to work for the heart as well. The latest study, by scientists at the University of Kansas Medical Center, looked at yoga’s impact on 49 individuals suffering from atrial fibrillation, a common heart condition. The researchers monitored various indicators of heart health — including blood pressure, heart rate, and episodes of atrial fibrillation, a particular kind of irregular heart rhythm. They found that symptoms improved when study participants attended yoga class at least twice a week while continuing to take their prescribed medication.
Participants experienced an average of two episodes of irregular heart rhythm while taking yoga, compared to nearly four episodes pre-yoga. The study, published online Jan. 30 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, is one of the first to test the effects of yoga on atrial fibrillation. And it was published less than a week after a study found that those suffering from depression, schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions would benefit from yoga.
~ Anneke ~
Meera Balasubramaniam, Shirley Tellesand P. Murali Doraiswamy – “Yoga on our minds: a systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatric disorders.” Front. Psychiatry, 25 January 2013.