This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

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Yoga as a clinical intervention for psychological conditions

Sat Bir Khalsa — Boston.

Yoga is well known as a practice that improves mental health and stress tolerance. Accordingly, a large number of research studies on yoga and meditation practice have documented the improvements possible in mood, cognitive function and mental well-being in normal healthy individuals. The last century has seen the recent evolution of what has come to be known as “yoga therapy”, the use of yoga as a clinical treatment for a variety of disorders. It is perhaps not surprising that mental and emotional disorders are among the conditions most amenable to yoga treatment. A recent review of the research literature in this area has revealed the strong proportion of this work documenting the effectiveness of yoga and meditation in the treatment of psychological conditions and psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and addictive and criminal behaviours. There has also been significant research effort recently in elucidating the basic psychophysiology of the mind-body connection. This has provided a scientific basis for understanding the observed effectiveness of: 1) meditative yogic techniques in treating conditions which on the surface appear to be strictly physically-based such as diabetes and asthma, and: 2) physically-based yoga techniques in treating conditions which appear to be strictly mentally-based such as depression and anxiety. Research in our laboratory has been evaluating the effectiveness of yoga and meditation in the treatment of insomnia, which represents an ideal example of a disorder with both psychological and physiological contributing factors.

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