Schizophrenia, one of the most serious mental disorder ranks among the top ten causes of disease-related burden in the age group of 15-44 globally.
Symptoms related to schizophrenia are generally classified into positive (delusions, hallucinations and formal thought disorder) and negative (amotivation, anhedonia, emotional blunting and poor insight). In the recent years, clinicians recognized a third domain of reduced cognition.
There is no single cause of schizophrenia, which means that there is no one treatment which is universally effective in the rehabilitation of those diagnosed with schizophrenia. A yoga practice could be very beneficial to those diagnosed with schizophrenia because it provides a fusion of mind and body.
Benefits of Yoga
Studies have shown that yoga has significant benefits to those diagnosed with schizophrenia. The effects of yoga therapy are multifaceted, including reduction of psychotic symptoms and depression, improving cognition, increasing quality of life, and producing neurobiological changes, such as increased oxytocin levels.
- Decrease in negative symptoms caused by the illness. In a study done by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, it was concluded that the incorporation of a yoga practice into treatment does contribute to a reduction in symptoms experienced by those diagnosed with schizophrenia (Duraiswamy, Gangadhar, Nagendra, & Thirthalli, 2007).
- Reduce Side Effect of Medication
- Marked improvements in social skills. especially, positive effect on facial emotion recognition deficits.
- Increased levels of aminobutyric acid, or GABA. Decreased GABA levels are associated with moodand anxiety disorders (Barch, et al., 2010). Schizophrenia sufferers experience high levels of anxietyand instability of mood. Yoga can help to calm this anxiety and mood instability.
- The second generation drugs used for treatment are related to worsening or causing obesity and dyslipidemia. Yoga can prove a get help in managingweight and obesity.
- Yoga can help patients who develop endocrinological and menstrual dysfunction as a result ofdrugs.
Further research is needed into the exact mechanisms of action of yoga in producing the above changes, as well as overcoming the barriers in reaching yoga to the majority of patients suffering from this devastating illness.
Suggested Yoga Asanas
- Asanas that are excellent in the beginning stages are the pawanmuktasana series, relaxation poses, simple standing asanas, marjariasana, and dynamic shashankasana.
- The trikonasana series is particularly good for building confidence and a positive attitude.
- Doing surya namaskara in progressive stages can slowly build up a group’s ability to practice the series.
- Stimulating the thyroid through yoga poses such as shoulder stand (sarvangasana), plough (halasana) and standing head to knee pose (dandayamana janusirasana) may help alleviate some symptoms.
- Bhramari is useful for reducing anxiety, anger and tension. Kapalbhati allows the mind to rest from thoughts and visions. Ujjayi and the cooling practices encourage tranquility.
- Nadi shodhana is an excellent practice for calming chaotic emotions and is also useful to balance ida and pingala nadis. Its important to mention that there is a link between this disease and the imbalance of ida and pingala nadis.
- Mild Kapalabhatti (Skull cleansing) and Anuloma-Viloma (Alternate nostril breathing) is good for schizophrenics. Avoid all other pranayama (breathing exercises).
Swami Satyananda Saraswati spent 15 days in a Danish asylum in 1968 teaching neti, kunjal, shankhaprakshalana, surya namaskara and bhastrika to the residents, with fantastic results. These are definitely practices best taught by the guru or a very experienced teacher for people with special conditions.
Note: Visualizations and Meditation practices should be avoided and the student should not be pushed beyond capability.