Yoga alleviates anxiety and stress without adverse effects
A 2012 systematic review of yoga for stress and anxiety evaluated 10 RCTs with a total of 813 heterogeneous participants, ages 18 to 76 years, including pregnant women, breast cancer patients, flood survivors, healthy volunteers, patients with chronic illnesses, perimenopausal women, adults with metabolic syndrome, and people working in finance, all with a range of anxiety and stress symptoms.3 The RCTs compared yoga, as an adjunctive or stand-alone treatment, with wait-list controls, relaxation, therapy, anxiety education, rest, or exercise. Yoga regimens varied from a single 20-minute session to 16 weeks of daily 1-hour sessions, with most regimens lasting 6 to 10 weeks.
Of the 10 RCTs reviewed, 7 moderate- to high-quality studies with a total of 627 participants found statistically significant reductions in anxiety and stress in yoga groups compared with control groups. Of the remaining 3 studies, 1 found yoga equivalent to cognitive therapy; 1 found a nonsignificant benefit for yoga compared with wait-list controls; and 1 found no improvement with either yoga or relaxation.