Feasibility and Pilot Efficacy Testing of Integrated Yoga and Shirodhara (Ayurvedic Oil-Dripping) Intervention on Clinical Symptoms, Cognitive Functions and Sleep Quality of Adults with Anxiety Disorder

Int J Yoga. 2020 Jan-Apr;13(1):32-41. doi: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_44_19.


Background: Beneficial effects of yoga therapy in anxiety disorders (ADs) are known. Traditional texts describe usefulness of Ayurvedic oil-dripping, Shirodhara technique, in relieving anxiety. Thus, present study was planned to assess the feasibility and synergistic value of Shirodhara as an add-on to yoga therapy in adults with AD.

Materials and methods: Thirty adults (males = 14, females = 16) admitted in a residential holistic health care center with an age range of 29.66 ± 6.63 years and diagnosis of one of the ADs (generalized AD, n = 18; social phobia, n = 8; and panic AD, n = 4) as per mini-international neuropsychiatric interview (M. I. N. I. English version 5.0) by a psychiatrist were randomly divided into two groups: (1) integrated yoga-based lifestyle program (YT; n = 15) and (2) YT + Ayurveda (YA; n = 15). Both groups continued to receive conventional treatment and were on stable medications throughout the study period except in cases of emergency. Assessments were done by an independent assessor at baseline and after 2 weeks of intervention for clinical symptoms (HAM-A, State and Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale), sleep quality (sleep rating questionnaire), and cognition (Stroop test and digit letter substitution test) using standard validated tools. Parametric tests were applied using SPSS 10.0 to analyze the data.

Results: Twelve subjects in yoga group and thirteen subjects in YA group completed the trial. No side effects were reported in any of the groups. Within-group comparisons showed a significant improvement in clinical symptoms, cognition and sleep quality in both the groups. Between-group comparisons showed significantly better scores in Stroop word task for YA group as compared to YT group. Furthermore, there was a trend toward better improvement in sleep quality for YA group.

Conclusion: Adding of Shirodhara technique to YT was feasible and may be useful in improving executive memory and sleep quality in adults with ADs.

Keywords: Adults; Ayurveda-based oil-dripping; Shirodhara; anxiety disorders; integrated yoga.