Study Probes Yoga Treatment for Trauma-Related Issues

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found that while there are some promising benefits to using yoga for trauma survivors, there isn’t yet enough evidence to support the practice as a stand-alone solution for improving mental health and well-being.

Rebecca Macy, Ph.D., a researcher who works with violence and trauma survivors, headed up the study at the University of North Carolina School of Social Work. Macy and her team wanted to know if the research evidence supported the use of yoga for people who have post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression, or anxiety, or various traumas.

To do this, Macy and her colleagues analyzed 13 literature reviews to conduct a meta-review of 185 articles published between 2000 and 2013. Overall, the researchers found that yoga holds potential promise for helping improve anxiety, depression, PTSD, and/or the psychological consequences of trauma at least in the short term.

The study, published recently in the journal Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, also suggested that clinicians and service providers consider recommending yoga as an intervention in addition to other “evidence-based and well-established treatments,” including psychotherapy and medication.

“Even though I do think yoga is, in general, incredibly beneficial, I also think there needs to be a whole lot more education about how to use yoga specifically to treat survivors of trauma in order to be the most effective and helpful,” said Leslie Roach, a certified yoga instructor and massage therapist who co-authored the study.

“So as a stand-alone treatment right now, it’s just not viable. However, I think with more education, more research, and more experienced instructors, it will be.”

Macy and Roach are considering several possible future studies, including one that would examine the use of yoga within a rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter. However, because yoga is a holistic practice, researchers must be careful not to “undermine yoga’s approach,” Macy added.

That is, the use of traditional scientific research methods to study the benefits of yoga is easier said than done.

“One of our recommendations was that researchers and yoga instructors partner together so that we use holistic methods in future research,” Macy said.

“We need to ask ourselves if we’re taking these Western research methods and trying too hard to fit a round peg in a square hole. As a researcher, I don’t want to undo the potential benefits of yoga by making the practice unnecessarily standard and systematic.”

Source: University of North Carolina