Cognitive Behavioural Therapy beats Kundalini yoga for treating generalized anxiety disorder
This will not be music to millions of Indian ears who repose their faith in yoga. “Kundalini yoga can reduce anxiety for adults with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but study results support Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) remaining first-line treatment,” states a report by US researchers.
Led by Naomi M. Simon from NYU, the study was designed “to assess whether yoga (Kundalini yoga) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for GAD are each more effective than a control condition (stress education) and whether yoga is non-inferior to CBT for the treatment of GAD. “
GAD is common and the patients seek complementary and alternative therapies, including yoga. CBT is expensive and there is a stigma attached to the patients undergoing the treatment. However, the data to support the efficiency of yoga compared to the first-line treatments is not available.
Yoga is popular in the US with an estimated 14.3% of the population (in 2017) practicing yoga. Yoga consists of physical postures, exercises, breath regulation, relaxation, meditation and mindfulness practice. Mindfulness-based approaches do have benefits for anxiety disorders, but the effect of yoga is less clear. Meta-analyses of yoga for anxiety have yielded inconclusive results in the past.
A pilot study indicated that Kundalini yoga (KY), involving all the traditional components of yoga, including breathing practices and meditation, may be considered for GAD.
A standardized Kundalini Yoga procedure was developed by the Guru Ram Das Center for Medicine and Humanology (S.B.S.K.). The protocol included physical postures and exercises, breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, meditation and mindfulness practices, yoga theory, philosophy, and psychology. Cognitive behavioral therapy used an evidence-based GAD procedure, including 5 core treatment modules including psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring, progressive muscle relaxation, worry exposures, and in vivo exposure exercises; and targeted metacognitions ie, worrying about worrying, but no explicit mindfulness components. Stress education is a standardized control condition, including lectures on physiologic, psychological, and medical effects of stress; effects of lifestyle behaviors, such as caffeine, alcohol, and smoking; resilience factors; and the importance of exercise and diet. Homework consisted of listening to audio files about stress, nutrition, and lifestyle.
The finding on Kundalini Yoga may not fully generalize to all yoga types, say the study authors.
One of the study supervisors was Dr Sat Bir Khalsa, a practitioner and certified instructor in Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.
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