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Growing medical recognition of yoga as a treatment for anxiety

Yoga Trainer doing yoga pose for anxiety disorders

The Evolution Of Yoga As A Medical Treatment For Anxiety

Before we see how it is beneficial to practice Yoga for anxiety, let us first see what anxiety is. Here is an overview of anxiety, how it is being treated , and how Yoga plays a positive role in reducing anxiety in various patients. 

Anxiety disorders are one of America’s most common mental health conditions (an estimated 40 million adults over 18 experienced an anxiety disorder), with women twice as likely to be affected than men (National Institute of Mental Health).

 Anxiety disorders are categorized into several types, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive DISORDER (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Anxiety can be distinguished from fear because it involves feelings of dread or apprehension about future events rather than immediate reactions to current events.

An anxiety disorder is when the body’s normal response to stress and danger becomes so extreme that it causes extreme distress and interferes with everyday living.

History Of Yoga 

  • Yoga is a 5,000-year-old Hindu tradition that began as a meditative practice to disable the fluctuations of the mind to achieve a higher state of awareness (Raja Yoga) and cure the body. This is how Yoga for fear and anxiety works. 
  • They work on the fluctuations and promote mental health. These days, Yoga is undergoing a kind of renaissance in the West as an athletic activity that stimulates the mind and body through poses (Asana). 
  • There are several theories on how this change occurred, but it is now trendy in America.

State Of Research On Whether Or Not Yoga Effectively Treats Anxiety Through Neurophysiology

  • One study found that students who took 8 weeks of Hatha Yoga for anxiety disorder (a class consisting of ~12 poses, breathing practices, relaxation techniques and meditation) had lower cortisol levels before an exam than those who did not take Yoga. 
  • Another study found that people who took 8 weeks of Hatha Yoga had significant increases in GABA (a neurotransmitter linked to relaxation) as measured by their skin conductance response (SCR).

Research on Whether Or Not Yoga Can Effectively Treat Anxiety Through Psychophysiology

  • Much of the research on yoga’s effects on anxiety symptoms have been conducted through psychophysiology. 
  • While plenty of studies show that yoga can reduce symptoms, not many have looked at why yogic practices are effective. 
  • Dr. Raghuram Mallaiah, a psychiatrist at NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences), Bangalore, has studied this for over two decades.
  • His preliminary investigations suggest that yogic practices work through “top-down” effects; that is to say, the brain (and its corresponding level of anxiety) changes before the body does. 
  • However, this does not indicate an absence of physiological changes, as there certainly are changes. Yogic practices undoubtedly lead to biological adaptations in the body. 
  • The difference is that the brain seems to take precedence over these changes, indicating a potential influence of neuroplasticity upon them.

How Does Yoga For Anxiety And Stress Compare To Medication, Therapy And Other Mind/Body Therapies

  • Several studies have found that Yoga was as effective as psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. However, one of these studies did not find Yoga to be more effective than exercise on measures of anxiety symptoms.
  •  Yoga has only been compared directly with medication in one study thus far, which found that both psychotherapy and medication were more effective than Yoga in reducing anxiety symptoms.

Benefits of Yoga On Anxiety

  • Yoga has become extremely popular in the West as both a way to stay physically fit and, for many, calm their minds. 
  • Due to its strong basis in Hinduism, some people are wary of practicing it. However, Yoga is now being practiced by countless celebrities who claim that it has helped them become calmer and better able to handle stress.
  • Yoga for anxiety is beneficial for people suffering from anxiety and depression because it causes the body and mind to relax, has a strong basis in meditation and breathing exercises, and reduces stress mentally and physically. 
  • It also helps relieve physical pain, which can be helpful for those who feel anxious due to chronic illness or disability.
  • Yoga exercises can consist of a wide variety of poses designed to stretch and strengthen muscles and breathing techniques that can be used in meditation. 
  • Yoga is most commonly practiced in a group, with an instructor leading the class through the various poses and exercises, but it can also be done on your own or with a friend.
  • To get the most out of a yoga class, it is recommended that you be centered and calm before going in. Some studies have shown a link between depression and serotonin levels in the body.
  •  Yoga is known to naturally increase serotonin within the brain, which can often help people suffering from depression or anxiety. Whether you’re looking to relax or stay in shape in your preferable time slot, yoga classes online is a great option. 
  • Yoga is an effective way of dealing with many aspects of anxiety and depression and is even believed by some doctors to be as effective as psychotherapy and medication. 
  • A psychiatrist in New York City found that patients suffering from anxiety and depression were much more likely to stick with their yoga practice than those going to therapy or taking medication, as they found it very beneficial and enjoyable.
  • Similarly, a study of men and women who suffered from depression showed that Yoga could be used as a preventative measure for those at risk of becoming depressed. 
  • The study discovered that practicing Yoga once a week for four months decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety. It was also found that doing Yoga more often reduces these symptoms even further.
  • Yoga is a beneficial way of coping with anxiety symptoms, but it is essential to remember that it cannot replace medication or psychotherapy entirely.



Yoga for fear and anxiety or other mental disorders, like depressive disorder, is compelling. Yoga is an ancient science that originates in India. There are many types of Yoga like Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Iyana yoga etc. Many studies have shown the effectiveness of Yoga on patients who have schizophrenia and other mental disorders, but there are few studies on patients suffering from anxiety and depression.