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Can yoga help those dealing with bipolar disorder?

Whether it is physical problems or those concerning mental health, yoga has been known to impart a number of benefits. But does it treat bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness refers to a brain condition that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. A research by US-based Brown University revealed that yoga practice had the ability to yield significant mental health benefits for people with bipolar. For the study, the researchers recruited 109 individuals who identified themselves as having bipolar disorder and as being yoga practitioners. Of 86 individuals, 70 had positive results on a screening questionnaire for manic symptoms. The study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice reported that the patients had been practising yoga for an average of six years; they attended a yoga class twice a week and practised yoga at home three times every week.

It doesn't come as a surprise that yoga has been able to show positive outcomes in those with bipolar disorder. Two-thirds said that yoga positively affected their depressive and manic symptoms. They also reported positive emotional effects of yoga, such as reduced anxiety and worry; positive cognitive effects, especially in terms of increased mindfulness; and positive physical effects, such as weight loss, increased energy, and improved sleep.

However, the research also noted that there was a slight risk associated with yoga too - including potential worsening of symptoms related to bipolar disorder, the researchers noted. The researchers said that even tough hatha yoga could help some people with bipolar disorder, it is not without risks and, like many treatments for bipolar disorder, should be used with care.

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Here are some yoga asanas you could try doing after consultation with your doctor and a trained yoga teacher:

Balasana: To do this pose, rest your knees on the floor, and then your buttocks on your feet. Now exhale, and while using your hands as support, slide down and forwards into the child's pose. Touch your forehead to the ground. Hold this pose for as long as you are comfortable. Now to come out of this pose inhale and use your hands to push up your upper body.

Tadasana: Stand and keep your legs and feet joined. Place your hands by the sides of your body and look straight. Take a deep breath in and raise your hands above your head. Stretch your shoulders, chest and arms upwards. Now raise your heels such that the weight of your body is borne by your toes. Stretch your body upwards. Retain the position for 10-15 seconds and slowly lower your body while breathing out.

Kapalbhati: Sit comfortably. Keep your palms on your knees facing downwards. Now exhale through your nose and pull your stomach in towards your spine. When you loosen your stomach muscles you will automatically breathe in. Quickly contract your stomach muscles again and exhale. Your stomach muscles should be doing the work of pushing out and pulling in air. Do this initially about 50 times; you can increase the number of repetitions as you feel more comfortable with the practice.

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