By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Could Yoga for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder be useful? What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)? What is the primary form of therapy for OCD? In what ways can Yoga training help as a form of therapy? Which combination of therapeutic methods would be most beneficial? Let’s be honest, OCD is complicated and professional counseling will likely recommend more than one therapeutic method for a patient to cope with all the baggage and potential situations daily life throws at us.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is classified as an anxiety disorder. OCD is also classified as a psychiatric disorder. Either way, the person suffering from OCD experiences involuntary, intrusive thoughts. When a person begins to take these intrusive thoughts seriously, anxiety grows – based upon exaggerated internal fears, which are not based upon reality.
OCD can also cause compulsive actions. These compulsive rituals may include excessive hoarding, counting, cleaning, or checking. If OCD is allowed to persist without therapy, it can become a disabling condition, which could continue throughout one’s life.
In most cases, where professional help is sought (for any form of anxiety), a person experiencing the above-mentioned symptoms will benefit from medical or psychiatric counseling. In western societies, psychiatric counseling is usually the primary form of therapy for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
The medical or psychiatric objective is to find a cause and a solution for compulsive behavior through forms of therapy, medication, or balancing a nutritional deficiency. The Yogic approach is also based upon finding a cause and a solution to suffering.
Pranayama, mantra, asana, meditation, and relaxation techniques are all useful. Although the Yogic diet runs parallel to Ayurvedic recommendations, it would be wise to consult directly with an Ayurvedic doctor. In order for patient and doctor to get the full picture, it is always good to have a direct consultation.
In the west, Yoga tends to be an adjunct therapy. Doctors recommend Yoga sessions for a variety of anxiety disorders. The reason being – there will be no ill side effects, from Yoga practice, while a patient is working toward a recovery.
This is a key issue: The person suffering from OCD must completely want a recovery and develop the internal power to prevent a relapse. Yogic methods teach one to train the mind. The truth is – we all have fears and intrusive thoughts. Therapeutic forms of Yoga teach us to prioritize and eliminate intrusive thoughts.
Yoga teachers should be prepared for the needs of students who need help with mental and emotional health. Yoga schools should also be familiar with competent counselors and other holistic services in their local area.
Students sometimes ask for a variety of recommendations concerning holistic, medical, and counseling services. Help for an OCD recovery may require a variety of professional services. It is wise to point needful students toward the best professionals in their area. As teachers, we are not offering cures, but Yoga for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a significant part of the mix.
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Effects of yoga on depressive symptoms in people with mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Jacinta Brinsley et al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2020
Scoping review of systematic reviews of complementary medicine for musculoskeletal and mental health conditions
Ava Lorenc et al., BMJ Open, 2018
CBT, medication and the combination are effective for childhood anxiety
Lynn M Hana et al., Evid Based Ment Health, 2019
Yoga practice in the UK: a cross-sectional survey of motivation, health benefits and behaviours
Tina Cartwright et al., BMJ Open, 2020
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