Hatha Yoga Can Benefit Bipolar Disorder Patients

February 2, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Many patients with bipolar disorder maintain that yoga helps reduce depressive, manic, or hypomanic symptoms, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice.

Many patients with bipolar disorder maintain that yoga helps reduce depressive, manic, or hypomanic symptoms, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice.

Researchers examined responses from 70 bipolar individuals who answered a questionnaire about their symptoms, disease history, and yoga practice. The most common yoga practice was called hatha, which aims to improve both physical and mental health.

More than two-thirds of the respondents said yoga had a positive impact on their depressive symptoms at least some of the time. Concerning reductions in manic or hypomanic symptoms, two-thirds of the patients said yoga helped at least some of the time. Only 9% reported that yoga had a negative impact on their bipolar disorder.

For many respondents, yoga reduced anxiety and had positive cognitive and physical effects, such as weight loss or increased energy. Some participants had turned to yoga specifically because it was a form of physical activity; the researchers said this was important to note because mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications have been shown to cause gain weight.

For some, the meditative aspect of yoga helped them focus on the root of a depressive episode. For others, yoga let them release built-up emotions.

Pain and physical injury were the most common responses to questions on potential negative effects of yoga. Five respondents said yoga had increased their manic symptoms, and another 5 reported that yoga had increased their depression or feelings of lethargy. The practice of heated yoga might have contributed to increased manic symptoms, the study authors noted.

“Our results suggest that hatha yoga may be a powerful positive practice for some people with bipolar disorder but that it is not without risks and, like many treatments for bipolar disorder, should be used with care,” the researchers concluded.