Yoga helps against mental illness

Metastudie finds positive effects of yoga in depression, schizophrenia and ADHD

Yoga actually helps - with some problems © Bryan Helfrich, Alias52 / CC-by-sa 3.0
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Yoga makes you healthy - that's what convinced the numerous followers of this Far Eastern movement theory for a long time. That regular yoga exercises actually have a measurable positive effect on depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders, now a meta-study by American researchers. Although the results are still preliminary because of the small study sizes, they show that yoga has clear positive effects on these diseases, the researchers report in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Believing the advertising brochures and faithful followers of these exercises, yoga is a true all-rounder: It makes beautiful, keeps young and helps against all sorts of diseases. Yoga also helps against depression, sleep disorders and a variety of mental disorders. "Yoga has become such a cultural phenomenon that it is difficult for physicians and patients to separate the actual effects from the hype, " say Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University Medical Center and his colleagues. Their aim was therefore to check whether the full-bodied promises can be proven.

For their meta-study, the researchers evaluated more than 100 studies that examined the effects of yoga on schizophrenia, depression, attention deficit ADHD, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and memory problems. However, according to the scientists, only 16 of these were methodologically good enough to be considered more closely. But at least: In these 16, the evaluation showed significant positive effects of yoga for mild depression, schizophrenia, ADHD and sleep disorders. For eating disorders and memory problems, however, the researchers found no evidence of a demonstrable positive effect.

Altered biomarkers

The way in which yoga works has also been examined in detail in some of the studies evaluated. Researchers using biomarkers have found that yoga influences some of the key elements of metabolism in a similar way to antidepressants and psychotherapy. In the body of yoga practicing patients, the levels of certain neurotransmitters, growth factors and inflammatory markers and also indicators of oxidative stress changed - the damage caused by aggressive molecules in the cells - decreased.

"If it had an active ingredient that would have a similar positive and side effect-free effect as yoga, it would be a bestseller worldwide, " says Doraiswamy. However, the researchers also emphasize that the results of their meta-study can only be considered provisional because the studies studied had only a small number of participants. More research is therefore needed before yoga is routinely prescribed to patients with depression or schizophrenia. (Front Psychiatry, 2013; doi: 10.3389 / fpsyt.2012.00117) Display

(Duke University Medical Center, 28.01.2013 - NPO)