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New study finds that yoga for anxiety is an effective treatment

A new study shows that practicing yoga for anxiety lessens chronic worry and nervousness.

A new study has found that practicing yoga for anxiety seems to work.

More specifically, it found that doing yoga lessens symptoms of “generalized anxiety disorder”: a condition that involves constantly feeling worried and nervous.

Does yoga help with anxiety? This study says yes

The study found that using yoga for anxiety symptoms was “significantly more effective” for generalized anxiety disorder than standard education on stress management.

However, it was less effective than CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).

But yoga is generally more widely available, and perhaps has a lower barrier to entry than a formal CBT treatment regimen.

The study involved 226 participants who had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. They were about equally split between men and women.

They were randomly assigned to one of three groups: CBT, “Kundalini” yoga, or a standard program of stress-management education.

Yoga vs CBT vs stress management

After a period of three months, CBT and yoga were both found to be “significantly more effective” in treating anxiety than the stress management program was.

About 54% of participants who practiced yoga for anxiety had “meaningfully improved” their anxiety symptoms.

Among those assigned to the stress-management education group, only 33% felt that their anxiety had meaningfully decreased.

And in the group that received the CBT treatment, about 71% experienced a meaningful decrease in their anxiety symptoms. CBT also had the longest-lasting effects and was still effective six months later.

Yoga to reduce anxiety

The researchers chose Kundalini yoga for this study. It includes a wide range of positions (or physical postures), as well as specific breathing techniques and relaxation exercises.

Likewise, the participants also learn about the theory behind yoga, and are trained in meditation and mindfulness practice.

For the CBT group, the chosen CBT protocol included cognitive interventions that focus on identifying and changing “maladaptive” thought patterns, such as worrying.

It also included muscle relaxation techniques and “psychoeducation,” which means providing useful information that can help patients better cope with their condition.

The control group, who underwent a training program in stress management, listened to recorded lectures about the negative effects of stress (both physical and psychological).

They also learned about how certain behaviors — such as drinking alcohol and smoking — can increase stress.

Finally, they were given information about the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Yoga as a low-threshold treatment for generalized anxiety disorder

Although most people sometimes feel anxious or nervous, it becomes a disorder when it is excessive and begins to interfere with a person’s daily life.

Researchers say that generalized anxiety disorder is relatively common, and currently affects almost seven million people in the United States.

The authors of the current study suggest that future studies could examine in more detail just what type of patient is the most likely to respond to yoga as an effective treatment for anxiety, and under what conditions.

As they point out, having a wider range of effective treatments will increase the likelihood that people with anxiety will be willing to get help with the condition.

Yoga for depression and anxiety

Other studies have found that yoga, mindfulness, and meditation are also effective in treating depression and panic attacks.

Likewise, other studies have found that some forms of meditation (such as Kirtan Kriya) may help to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.


Study: Efficacy of Yoga vs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs Stress Education for the Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Authors: Simon, Naomi M; Hofmann, Stefan G; Rosenfield, David; Hoeppner, Susanne S; Hoge, Elizabeth A; Bui, Eric; Khalsa, Sat Bir S
Published in: JAMA Psychiatry
Publication date: January 1, 2021
DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.2496

Photo: by David Gomes from Pexels