Background: The demand for complementary clinically efficacious, safe, patient acceptable, and cost-effective forms of treatment for mental illness is growing. Yoga has beneficial effects on somatic and mental health factors; therefore, yoga has preventive and therapeutic capabilities to improve mental dysfunction.
Objective: In this overview of the current literature, the evidence of the effects of yoga on selected major psychiatric disorders is summarized.
Results: The strongest evidence base for yoga exists in reducing depressive symptoms but its use in major depressive disorders is less clear. The evidence for the efficacy of yoga for anxiety disorders, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is encouraging, but not definitive due to only a few randomized controlled trials and methodological problems.
Conclusion: There is preliminary evidence that meditation-based yoga interventions may be helpful for depression, anxiety and PTSD; however, there may also be the risk of engaging in extreme yoga practices. The value of integrating yoga into a treatment plan for patients with psychiatric disorders needs to be evaluated on an individual basis. Healthcare providers can motivate and help patients evaluate whether a given yoga class is helpful and safe for them. Methodological problems and the unclear risk-benefit ratio preclude definitive recommendations for yoga as an adjunct treatment.
Keywords: Anxiety disorders; Efficacy; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Schizophrenia; Unipolar depression.