In a new study, researchers found yoga improves symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, a condition with chronic nervousness and worry, suggesting the popular practice may be helpful in treating anxiety in some people.
They found that yoga was much more effective for generalized anxiety disorder than standard education on stress management, but not effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the gold standard form of structured talk therapy that helps patients identify negative thinking for better responses to challenges.
The research was conducted by a team at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and elsewhere.
According to researchers, generalized anxiety disorder is a common, impairing, and undertreated condition, currently affecting an estimated 6.8 million Americans.
While most people feel anxious from time to time, it is considered a disorder when worrying becomes excessive and interferes with day-to-day life.
CBT is considered the gold standard first-line treatment. Medications, including antidepressants and sometimes benzodiazepines, may also be used.
Yet, not everyone is willing to take medication which can have adverse side effects and there are challenges with accessing CBT for many, including lack of access to trained therapists and long waitlists.
For the study, 226 men and women with a generalized anxiety disorder were randomly assigned to three groups—either CBT, Kundalini yoga, or stress-management education, a standardized control technique.
After three months, both CBT and yoga were found to be significantly more effective for anxiety than stress management.
Specifically, 54% of those who practiced yoga met response criteria for meaningfully improved symptoms compared to 33% in the stress-education group.
Of those treated with CBT, 71%met these symptom improvement criteria.
However, after six months of follow-up, the CBT response remained significantly better than stress education (the control therapy), while yoga was no longer significantly better, suggesting CBT may have more robust, longer-lasting anxiety-reducing effects.
The study involved an evidence-based protocol for CBT treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, including psychoeducation, cognitive interventions (focused on identifying and adapting maladaptive thoughts and worrying), and muscle relaxation techniques.
Kundalini yoga included physical postures, breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, yoga theory, and meditation/mindfulness practice.
One author of the study is Naomi M. Simon, MD, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health.
The study is published in JAMA Psychiatry.
Copyright © 2020 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.