(Natural News) Looking for an effective solution to depression and anxiety? This ancient practice of breath control, simple meditation, and doing bodily postures called yoga may be the solution. Research published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice has confirmed that this traditional healing technique can reduce depression and anxiety.
A team of researchers from Croatia, Italy, and Israel conducted the study with the goal of assessing the effects of yoga with educational intervention on disability, anxiety, depression, and pain in people affected by chronic lower back pain.
In the study, the research team compared the effects of yoga practice with educational intervention to an informational pamphlet. They recruited 30 people with chronic lower back pain and randomly divided them into two groups: the yoga group and the pamphlet group.
Participants assigned to the yoga group participated in an eight-week yoga program that included education on spine anatomy and the management of chronic lower back pain. On the other hand, participants in the pamphlet group were merely given pamphlets that contain information on what exercises to do for their condition.
Based on the results of the study, participants who practiced yoga for eight weeks experienced significant improvements in depression, anxiety, and pain, but not in disability. Moreover, the pamphlet group did not experience any improvements in their condition. The researchers wrote that if patients are only told about what exercises to do for their condition, they will not experience any improvements in their condition. This emphasizes the need for patients to coordinate with health or training experts.
The research team concluded that yoga combined with education can improve the mental health of people with chronic lower back pain. Experiencing reductions in depression and anxiety positively affect how one perceives pain.
More on the brain benefits of yoga
Yoga reduces depression and anxiety not only in people with chronic lower back pain, but also in other conditions that affect the psychological well-being of a person. Sara Lazar, a psychiatry researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, said at the fifth annual YogaFest OKC in Oklahoma City that the benefits of yoga and meditation go beyond the physical. (Related: Yoga is a ‘life changing’ practice that reduces bipolar symptoms, anxiety, depression, and more.)
Studies have shown that other health conditions get worse because of psychiatric problems. Moreover, patients who have heart disease, cancer, or liver disease also tend to have depression, anxiety, pain, and insomnia.
Lazar shared that she learned about an eight-week program called mindfulness-based stress reduction, which was developed by Jon Kabut-Zinn in the 1970s for chronic pain management. Mindful meditation, in general, involves sitting in a quiet space, focusing on one’s breath and current physical sensations, and avoiding other thoughts.
Patients who enrolled in Kabut-Zinn’s clinics and practiced 40 minutes of mindfulness every day reported that they had less stress. Doctors also discovered that the patients’ levels of the stress hormone called cortisol decreased, while the levels of other stress biomarkers in the bloodstream of the patients also declined.
Lazar looked into that research to determine how the architecture of the brain responded to similar meditation and yoga practices. She discovered that for a 50-year-old person who meditates, the prefrontal cortex, which is the problem-solving part of the brain that shrinks with age, was as well-preserved as a typical prefrontal cortex of a 25-year-old.
Moreover, Lazar and her team recruited long-term yoga practitioners. Comparing the yoga practitioners’ brains to those who don’t practice yoga, they concluded that yoga preserves IQ with age. A follow-up study revealed that regular yoga practice for eight weeks resulted in improvements in brain structure, including the posterior cingulate. Posterior cingulate, which is the mind-wandering part of the brain, gets destroyed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Read more news stories and studies on the health benefits of yoga and exercise by going to Naturopathy.news.