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Yoga and Exercise for Schizophrenia

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

Sun Salutation (Yoga for Schizophrenia)

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and includes World Schizophrenia Day which is commemorated every May 24th. The evidence is clear that exercise is extraordinarily helpful for persons with schizophrenia, especially in the areas of cognitive functioning (1) and cardiorespiratory fitness 2). Physical therapists are healthcare providers with expertise in exercise and have the capacity to serve people with schizophrenia as they strive to deal with a sedentary lifestyle, often driven by medication that helps to stabilize psychological symptoms. In studies that compared exercise to yoga (which includes movement [asanas], mindfulness, and breath) (3, 4, 5) people with schizophrenia had significant improvement on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale for Schizophrenia with either yoga or exercise. Significant improvement in quality of life was only found in those who practiced yoga.

What asanas were associated with benefits for people with schizophrenia?

1. Surya Namaskar/Sun Salutation (see image above)

Vrikshasana/Tree pose (Yoga for Schizophrenia)

2. Vrikshasana/Tree

Marjaryasana/Cat pose (Yoga for Schizophrenia)

3. Marjaryasana/Cat

Apanasana/Knees to Chest pose (Yoga for Schizophrenia)

4. Apanasana/Knees to Chest

Shavasana/Corpse pose (Yoga for Schizophrenia

5. Shavasana/Corpse

What was the recommended breathing practice?

Adham pranayama/Diaphragmatic breathing

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1. Firth J, Stubbs B, Rosenbaum S, et al. Aerobic exercise improves cognitive functioning in people with schizophrenia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Schizophr Bull. 2017;43(3):546-556.

2. Vancampfort D, Rosenbaum S, Ward PB, Stubbs B. Exercise improves cardiorespiratory fitness in people with schizophrenia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Schizophr Res. 2015;169(1-3):453-457.

3. Behere, R. V., A., et al. (2011). Effect of yoga therapy on facial emotion recognition deficits, symptoms and functioning in patients with schizophrenia. Acta Psych Scand, 123(2), 147–153.

4. Duraiswamy, G., et al. (2007). Yoga therapy as an add-on treatment in the management of patients with schizophrenia--a randomized controlled trial. Acta Psych Scand, 116(3), 226–232.

5. Vancampfort, D., et al. (2011). State anxiety, psychological stress and positive well-being responses to yoga and aerobic exercise in people with schizophrenia: a pilot study. Disab and Rehabil, 33(8), 684–689.


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