Yoga for Bipolar?
Right now no one can say whether yoga provides clinical benefits to people with bipolar disorder, but in a new article in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, researchers report survey responses they gathered from scores of people with the condition who practice yoga. What the collective testimony suggests is that yoga can be a substantial help, but it sometimes carries risks, too. “There is no scientific literature on hatha yoga for bipolar disorder,” said lead author Lisa Uebelacker, associate professor (research) of psychiatry and human behavior in the Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a staff psychologist at Butler Hospital. Hatha yoga is the practice, familiar in the West, in which people move between various poses. It often includes breathing practices and meditation. “There is reason to think that there are ways in which it might be wonderful and ways in which it might not be safe. We are interested in studying hatha yoga for bipolar as an adjunctive treatment to pharmacotherapy.”
The preponderance of responses from more than 70 people who answered the study’s online survey were that yoga has benefits for people with bipolar disorder. When asked, “What impact do you think yoga has on your life?” the vast majority of responses were positive and about one in five respondents characterized yoga as “life changing.” One even said, “Yoga has saved my life. … I might not be alive today were it not for yoga.”
“There is clearly evidence that yoga seems to be a powerful practice for some individuals with BD,” the researchers wrote in the paper. “It was striking that some of our respondents clearly believed that yoga had a major positive impact on their lives.”
Throughout the survey there was also evidence that yoga could be problematic for some people with BD, although fewer people cited problems.
In response to survey questions about whether yoga has had a negative impact, for example, five respondents cited cases in which rapid or energetic breathing made them feel agitated. Another became too relaxed after a slow, meditative practice: “I fell into a relaxed state … near catatonic as my mind was depressed already. I was in bed for three days afterward.”
(All information from Science Daily)