East Coast scientists have confirmed what yoga practitioners intuitively know: The mind-body practice may be effective in treating a host of stress-related mental and physical conditions – including depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and heart disease.
A new review of medical research on yoga sought to explain why the practice is so beneficial and recommended developing specific uses for it to be used in conjunction with standard treatments to prevent and treat stress-related conditions.
The review, published online in the journal Medical Hypotheses, was conducted by a team of researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine, New York Medical College and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.
"Western and Eastern medicine complement one another. Yoga is known to improve stress-related nervous system imbalances," said Dr. Chris Streeter, a mental-health specialist at Boston University. "This paper provides a theory, based on neurophysiology and neuroanatomy, to understand how yoga helps patients feel better by relieving symptoms in many common disorders."
The researchers reported stress causes an imbalance in the nervous system and biochemical changes that can lead to anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, epilepsy, and chronic pain. Citing past studies that found yoga eased anxiety, chronic back pain and other conditions, Streeter and his colleagues said they are working to incorporate mind-body therapies such as yoga into clinical studies testing its effectiveness in a wide range of stress-related medical and psychological conditions.