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Kundalini yoga reduces anxiety symptoms, according to researchers at NYU

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yoga can be helpful as a first-line approach, because it’s good for you, it’s safe and has many health benefits which have already been well documented
Credit: NYU Langone Health

Researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine have found Kundalini yoga is effective in relieving the effects of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) in adults, following a clinical trial.

In 2019, an estimated 275 million people suffered from anxiety disorders worldwide, and there is an increasing need for solutions as a result of the pandemic, according to Dr Naomi Simon, the study’s lead researcher.

Simon said: “It seems there are exacerbations of anxiety as a result of COVID-19 – people have less access to normal structure and their usual rewarding activities, plus, they may also be coping with economic challenges, illness and grief.”

The research indicates Kundalini yoga could play an important role in dealing with this looming mental health crisis, creating opportunities for spas which choose to offer interventions such as COVID-19 recovery programmes.

The trial

The study involved 226 adults diagnosed with GAD, who were randomly assigned to a 12-week treatment course of either Kundalini yoga – 93 people, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – 90 people, or stress education, the experiment’s control group – with 43 people.

Participants were split into groups of four to six people and guided through 12 two-hour sessions with 20 minutes of daily homework relating to their respective treatment.

Kundalini yoga sessions included physical postures, breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, yoga theory and meditation and mindfulness practices.

According to Simon, mindfulness practices were a big driver in improving the yoga groups’ anxiety, because they required single-focused attention on breath work or mantras.

The findingsAfter three months, the CBT and Kundalini yoga participants demonstrated a marked improvement in symptoms over the stress education group, with 71 per cent of the CBT group and 54 per cent of the yoga group experiencing an improvement.

The stress education group’s participants saw a 33 per cent improvement.

“This study provides good evidence that Kundalini yoga may be helpful for some patients with GAD,” explained Simon.

“Yoga can be helpful as a first-line approach, because it’s good for you, it’s safe and has many health benefits which have already been well documented. Ultimately, I think it’s useful for people to know that it’s an option.”

About the study

Published in the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry, the study was produced by Naomi M Simon, Stefan G Hofmann and David Rosenfield.

Called Efficacy of yoga vs cognitive behavioral therapy vs stress education for the treatment of generalised anxiety disorder: a randomized clinical trial, the goal of the trial was to assess whether Kundalini yoga and CBT are more effective than a control condition in resolving GAD symptoms and whether yoga gets better results than CBT for the treatment of GAD.

Participants measured their experience using a Clinical Global Impression-Improvement Scale score of ‘much’ or ‘very much’ improved.

In this trial, Kundalini yoga was efficacious for GAD but the results support CBT as the best first-line treatment.

To read more about the research, follow this link.

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Researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine have found Kundalini yoga is effective in relieving the effects of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) in adults, following a clinical trial.
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