A recent study published online in JAMA Psychiatry (August 12, 2020) has revealed the benefits of yoga for improving anxiety. Over three months, 226 men and women with generalized anxiety disorder were randomly assigned to one of three groups: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Kundalini yoga or stress-management education. While CBT is the most effective long-term treatment, yoga was shown to be significantly more effective than stress management.
The study, led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, had participants in the Kundalini yoga group work in two-hour sessions, where they practiced physical postures, breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, yoga theory and meditation.
After three months, both CBT and yoga were more effective for anxiety than stress management. Fifty-four percent of yoga participants met the criteria for meaningfully improved symptoms, compared to 33% in the stress-education group. Of those who received CBT, 71% met symptom improvement criteria.
After six months, the CBT response remained significantly better than stress education, and yoga was no longer significantly better, so the researchers concluded that CBT may provide longer-lasting anxiety reduction.
Although it proved to be the best treatment for anxiety, challenges surrounding access to CBT— like lack of connection to trained therapists and long wait lists— suggest that there is value in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder trying yoga, as it's more easily accessible and offers numerous other health benefits.