Every month I receive what’s called an “Ovid Alert” through the library at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (or MAHEC – the facility where we conduct our teacher training for mental health professionals) on the latest yoga research. A few highlights stood out this month, so I thought I would summarize them here.
Yoga for Heart Health – More great news about yoga for heart disease. This study looked at several different lifestyle modifications like diet, exercise, etc. And found that the two biggest factors in preventing heart diseases are quitting smoking (duh) and…drum roll please… yoga! Wow, not diet or exercise but yoga! As an aside, in my reckless youth (so very long ago), mindfulness and yogic breathing were integral to the downfall of my own bad habit – I vividly remember a friend from the restaurant where I was working in the San Franscisco Marina telling me, “You can quit, just do more yoga.” I can’t finish this paragraph without a mention of the pioneering work of Dr. Dean Ornish, the researcher who first proved that heart disease can be reversed through yoga based lifestyle interventions.
Yoga for PTSD – In a follow up study, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and his team looked at how yoga is helping women with PTSD continue to heal and thrive. This study showed that women who kept doing yoga after the initial study was completed (which was a year and a half earlier), had a significantly greater decrease in symptoms including depression, and were more likely to no longer have a PTSD diagnosis. Dr. van der Kolk put PTSD on the map. He is the researcher who got it recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual so that it could be reimbursed by insurance companies. He knows what he’s talking about AND he’s a huge advocate of yoga.
Yoga for Depression and Anxiety – This study caught my eye because it is from Dr. Lisa Uebelacker at Brown University – who has published a lot of great research on the mental health benefits of yoga. There’ve been several reviews and meta-analyses of yoga for depression and anxiety. But what I think is interesting about this study is that it’s one of the first that I’ve seen that is warning of risks as well. The authors concluded, there may “be risks to engaging in yoga as well. Healthcare providers can help patients evaluate whether a particular community-based yoga class is helpful and safe for them.”
The problem of course is that many healthcare providers are not qualified to refer to different styles because they don’t know much about yoga. But they need to learn! As a yoga professional, you are in a unique position to educate healthcare providers about which kinds of yoga and which teachers can best fit the needs of the populations they are referring to yoga classes. This is also a great way to form alliances with clinicians that can lead to referrals.
Hope you enjoyed this little research summary. See ya on the mat soon!
Check out our upcoming workshop this October, Breath Centric Asana Variations and Pranayama. There will be an early-bird discount when you sign up before August 15! Click here to register.