New York: Yoga practice may yield significant mental health benefits for people with bipolar disorder, a survey study suggests.
Also known as manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder refers to a brain condition that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
"Some individuals with bipolar disorder believe that yoga has had a significant positive impact on their life," said co-researcher Lisa Uebelacker from Brown University in the US.
For the study, the researchers recruited 109 individuals who identified themselves as having bipolar disorder and as being yoga practitioners.
Of 86 individuals with useable responses, 70 had positive results on a screening questionnaire for manic symptoms.
Participants reported practicing yoga for an average of six years; they attended a yoga class twice a week and practised yoga at home three times every week, on average.
Most participants believed that yoga had benefits for their mental health. 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.
Fifteen respondents said that yoga had been significantly life-changing.
However, yoga is not without risks - including potential worsening of symptoms related to bipolar disorder, the researchers noted.
About one-fourth of respondents reported some type of negative effects related to yoga.
"Our results suggest that hatha yoga may be a powerful positive practice for some people with bipolar disorder but that it is not without risks and, like many treatments for bipolar disorder, should be used with care," the researchers wrote.
The study appeared in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice.