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Self-Reported Benefits and Risks of Yoga in Individuals with Bipolar Disorder


Journal of Psychiatric Practice®: September 2014 - Volume 20 - Issue 5 - p 345–352
doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000454779.59859.f8

Background. Although hatha yoga has frequently been recommended for patients with bipolar disorder (BD) and there is preliminary evidence that it alleviates depression, there are no published data on the benefits—and potential risks—of yoga for patients with BD. Thus, the goal of this study was to assess the risks and benefits of yoga in individuals with BD. Methods. We recruited self-identified yoga practitioners with BD (N=109) to complete an Internet survey that included measures of demographic and clinical information and open-ended questions about yoga practice and the impact of yoga. Results. 86 respondents provided sufficient information for analysis, 70 of whom met positive screening criteria for a lifetime history of mania or hypomania. The most common styles of yoga preferred were hatha and vinyasa. When asked what impact yoga had on their life, participants responded most commonly with positive emotional effects, particularly reduced anxiety, positive cognitive effects (e.g., acceptance, focus, or “a break from my thoughts”), or positive physical effects (e.g., weight loss, increased energy). Some respondents considered yoga to be significantly life changing. The most common negative effect of yoga was physical injury or pain. Five respondents gave examples of specific instances or a yoga practice that they believed increased agitation or manic symptoms; five respondents gave examples of times that yoga increased depression or lethargy. Conclusions. Many individuals who self-identify as having BD believe that yoga has benefits for mental health. However, yoga is not without potential risks. It is possible that yoga could serve as a useful adjunctive treatment for BD. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2014;20:345–352)

UEBELACKER and WEINSTOCK: Butler Hospital and Brown University, Providence, RI; KRAINES: Oklahoma State University, Stillwater

Acknowledgements: Parts of this work were presented at the 10th International Conference on Bipolar Disorders, Miami Beach, FL, June 2013. The abstract is published: Weinstock LM, Kraines MA, Uebelacker LA. Self-reported risks and benefits of yoga among individuals with bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disord 2013;15(suppl 1):92.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Please send correspondence to: Lisa A. Uebelacker, PhD, Butler Hospital, 345 Blackstone Boulevard, Providence, RI 02906.

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