Yoga

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Category: Life Style Options

What is it?

Yoga originated in India over 2000 years ago. Traditionally, yoga is a method joining the individual self with the divine, universal spirit, or cosmic consciousness. On the physical level yoga postures, called asanas, are designed to tone, strengthen, and align the body. These postures are thought to make the spine more flexible and promote increased blood flow to all the organs, glands, and tissues, thereby keeping all the bodily systems healthy. On a mental level, yoga uses breathing techniques, pranayama, meditation, dyana, to quiet, clarify, and discipline the mind.

How does it work?

It is unclear exactly how yoga produces its healthful effects. Research suggests it may work like other mind-body therapies to reduce stress. While others believe that yoga promotes the release of endorphins (natural painkillers and mood elevators) from the brain. Studies show yoga may lower your heart rate and blood pressure, increase muscle relaxation and increase breathing capacity. It may also promote muscle lengthening and strengthening and good posture.

Is it effective?

Yoga has shown to improve the mood of psychiatric inpatients and reduce 'stress hormones' like cortisol. However the effectiveness of yoga as a treatment for PTSD has not been researched adequately to measure its effectiveness.

Are there any disadvantages?

Some people have reported injuries by performing yoga postures without proper form or concentration, or by attempting difficult positions without working up to them gradually or having appropriate supervision. Beginners sometimes report muscle soreness and fatigue after performing yoga, also known as delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMs), but these side effects diminish with practice. However there is no direct evidence in the literature to the disadvantages of yoga. Caution should be taken as there is minimal evidence on the effectiveness for this treatment.

Where do you get it?

Yoga teachers/classes are listed in the Yellow Pages. While these strategies are pursued, it is also important that the person with PTSD is under the care of a certified health professional.

What are the evidence limitations?

There is currently no explicit evidence to support yoga as an independent intervention for PTSD. Much of the evidence base is derived from lower levels of evidence such as expert opinion and clinical experiences. Therefore interpreting this evidence should be undertaken with caution.

Recommendations

Based on the current lack of high quality evidence, the use of yoga for PTSD cannot be recommended. More research is required. It may be considered as an adjunct to other PTSD interventions, such as psychological and pharmacological interventions.

Key References

Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health 2007, ‘Australian guidelines for the treatment of adults with Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Practitioner Guide’ National Health and Medical research Council, viewed 11 December 2008,
http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/mh13.pdf

Lavey, R, Sherman, T, Mueser, KT, Osbome, DD, Currier, M & Wolfe, R 2005, ‘The effects of yoga on mood in psychiatric inpatients’, Psychiatric rehabilitation journal, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 399- 402.

West, J, Otte, C, Geher, K, Johnson, J, Mohr, DC 2004, ‘Effects of Hatha Yoga and African Dance on Perceived Stress, Affect, and Salivary Cortisol’, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 114-118.

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