A new study that examined a body of research on yoga and mental health found that yoga is a promising treatment for depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, and sleep issues. The study, which was published in Frontiers in Psychiatry last week looked at more than 100 studies, focusing on 16 high-quality controlled studies.
"Yoga has become such a cultural phenomenon that it has become difficult for physicians and patients to differentiate legitimate claims from hype," wrote researchers. "Our goal was to examine whether the evidence matched the promise."
The study concluded that yoga helps treat symptoms and also works as prevention for stress-related mental illnesses, said one of the study's authors Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center, reported Science Blog.
Yoga helped patients with ADHD and schizophrenia in combination with drugs. But it had a positive effect on mild depression and sleep problems even without drugs.
One study found that yoga affects the body in the same way as antidepressants (influencing chemical messengers in the brain, inflammation in the body, and other biological factors)—and without the negative side effects that sometimes come with drugs.
Researchers noted that the studies they reviewed looked at people with mild depression, so it's unclear how effective yoga would be for people suffering with more severe depression. Also, the studies looked at yoga practiced in group settings so social interaction could have played a part in the positive results as well.
While yoga proved beneficial for many mental health illnesses, it wasn't as beneficial for eating disorders and cognitive problems.
Read the study abstract here.