Improve Mental Illness with Yoga

Improve Mental Illness with Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“for the general person, yoga greatly enhances mental health: mood, sense of self, motivation, sense of inner direction and purpose, as well as physical health—and physical health is so important for mental health.“– Eleanor Criswell


Yoga is a complex of practices including postures, movements, breathing practices and meditation. Although its benefits have been touted for centuries, it is only recently that scientific study was verified these benefits. Yoga practice has been repeatedly demonstrated in research studies to be beneficial for the psychological and physical health of the practitioners. It appears to be helpful for both healthy individuals and those suffering from physical and mental health issues.


In today’s Research News article “The Efficacy of Body-Oriented Yoga in Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ),

Klatte and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research literature on effects of yoga practice on a variety of mental health problems. They focused on randomized controlled studies with adults suffering from psychiatric problems. They identified 25 published studies that met their criteria, including treatment of depression, schizophrenia, dependency, post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other mental illnesses.


They found that yoga practice produced, on the whole, large and significant improvements in the symptoms of the mental illnesses even in comparison to active control groups such as attention training and exercise. The beneficial effects of yoga practice were comparable to those produced by psychotherapy. But, the combination of yoga practice with psychotherapy produced even greater effects.


These are exciting and compelling findings that yoga practice is an effective treatment for mental illness on a par with individual psychotherapy. But, yoga practice has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive, can be practiced at home or in groups, and after a few weeks of instruction can be carried on without a therapist present. In addition, it can supplement traditional psychotherapy potentiating its effectiveness.


It would appear that the exercise component of yoga practice is not essential for its effectiveness as exercise only control groups show benefits but significantly less than the yoga practice groups. This suggests that the improvement of mindfulness that occurs in yoga practice has an additional beneficial role to play in treating mental illness. The combination of exercise with mindfulness training that occur with yoga  practice appears to be particularly effective in treating mental illnesses. These results suggest that yoga practice is safe and effective and should applied either as a stand-alone treatment or be combined with more traditional treatments.


So, improve mental illness with yoga.


“It will come as no surprise that the various forms of yoga have long been acknowledged as allies in mastering the mind and coping with stress. Science is Increasingly validating those claims, especially for depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).” – Mental Health America


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary


Klatte, R., Pabst, S., Beelmann, A., & Rosendahl, J. (2016). The Efficacy of Body-Oriented Yoga in Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 113(12), 195–202.



The efficacy of body-oriented yoga in the treatment of mental disorders has been investigated in numerous studies. This article is a systematic review and meta-analysis of the relevant publications.


All studies in which the efficacy of hatha-yoga, i.e., body-oriented yoga with asanas and pranayama, was studied in adult patients suffering from a mental disorder (as diagnosed by ICD or DSM criteria) were included in the analysis. The primary endpoint was disorder-specific symptom severity. The publications were identified by a systematic search in the PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO and ProQuest databases, supplemented by a search with the Google Scholar search engine and a manual search in the reference lists of meta-analyses and primary studies, as well as in specialized journals.


25 studies with a total of 1339 patients were included in the analysis. A large and significant effect of yoga was seen with respect to the primary endpoint (symptom severity) (Hedges’ g = 0.91; 95% confidence interval [0.55; 1.28]; number needed to treat [NNT]: 2.03), with substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 69.8%) compared to untreated control groups. Small but significant effects of yoga were also seen in comparison with attention control (g = 0.39; [0.04; 0.73]; NNT: 4.55) and physical exercise (g = 0.30; [0.01; 0.59]; NNT: 5.75); no difference in efficacy was found between yoga and standard psychotherapy (g = 0.08; [-0.24; 0,40]; NNT: 21.89). In view of the relatively high risk of bias, these findings should be interpreted with caution.


Body-oriented yoga with asanas and pranayama as central components is a promising complementary treatment for mental disorders and should be investigated in further high-quality studies.

Be Less Dependent upon Others with Mindfulness 2

Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem. If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge. – Fritz Perls


We are social animals. Alone we are weak and vulnerable and would not have fared well in evolution. But, in concert with others we have dominated our world. By working together in organized society we have not only been able to provide for a vast population but create technical wonders expanding interpersonal interaction possibilities. It is obvious that we depend upon one another and that, in general, is a good thing.


We are born totally helpless. We are completely dependent upon our parents and would perish without them. We take decades to fully develop and become completely independent of our parents. There is no other creature on the planet that takes so long to become independent. But we never really are independent, as the saying goes, “No man is an island”– John Donne. Independence simply means that we can guide ourselves through the intricacies of societal dependencies without another person directing us. That independence notwithstanding, we are forever dependent on others.


This is healthy. But, if that dependency is so strong that it interferes with the individual’s ability to live a happy and productive life then it becomes a personality disorder, called Maladaptive Interpersonal Dependency (MID). It is “characterized by the tendency to overrely on others for nurturance, support, and guidance. … the perception of oneself as weak and helpless, along with the perception of others as strong and powerful. . . fears of negative evaluation, fears of abandonment, and . . . passivity, submissiveness, reassurance seeking” Andrew McClintock. This pattern is associated with a number of other psychological disorders, but the most serious is an association with suicidality.


There is little known about MID and there are currently no empirically demonstrated effective treatments available. Mindfulness, however, has been shown to reduce interpersonal dependency (see So, it would seem reasonable to suspect that it may be effective for Maladaptive Interpersonal Dependency (MID). In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Therapy for Maladaptive Interpersonal Dependency: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial.”

McClintock and colleagues examined the ability of a mindfulness based treatment, Mindfulness Therapy for Maladaptive Interpersonal Dependency (MT-MID), to relieve the symptoms of MID in comparison to an equally time intensive control condition. They documented a significant improvement in interpersonal dependency produced by the MT-MID treatment. This occurred with a large effect size, indicating a clinically meaningful impact on MID.


McClintock and colleagues reported that the mindfulness treatment group had significantly higher mindfulness and significantly lower maladaptive dependency, helplessness, fears of negative evaluation, and excessive reassurance-seeking as compared to control participants. They also found that these effects were mediated by the increased mindfulness. In other words the MT-MID treatment increased mindfulness which, in turn, produced the relief of MID symptoms. The effects were still present a month after the end of the program, indicating that MT-MID produces sustained benefit for Maladaptive Interpersonal Dependency.


These results are potentially very important suggesting that a mindfulness based treatment program is effective for the clinical treatment of a personality disorder, MID, for which there was previously no known treatment. But, how can increases in mindfulness improve interpersonal dependency?


It is likely that interpersonal dependency is maintained by heightened levels of fear and anxiety and low self-esteem. Mindfulness has a number of known effects that may underlie its effectiveness for interpersonal dependency. It has been shown to reduce fear and anxiety (see and and to improve self-esteem (see So, mindfulness addresses some of the problems underlying MID. It would seem reasonable to infer that these were the changes induced by mindfulness training that were responsible for its effectiveness for MID.


So, practice mindfulness and be less dependent upon others.


“Authority is not a quality one person ‘has,’ in the sense that he has property or physical qualities. Authority refers to an interpersonal relation in which one person looks upon another as somebody superior to him.” ― Erich Fromm


No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee. 

John Donne


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies