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Canberra Nara Festival
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Study links yoga to mental health benefits

A study from universities in Australia and overseas has linked the practice of yoga with mental health benefits.

The study, from the University of South Australia (UniSA), the Federal University of Santa Maria, UNSW Sydney, Kings College London and Western Sydney University looked at 19 studies across six countries to determine the mental health benefits of yoga.

The results showed movement-based yoga can improve mental health for people living with a range of disorders, with the results “incremental” with the amount of yoga practised.

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The study’s lead researcher and UniSA PhD candidate Jacinta Brinsley said the results are “welcome and timely”, given social distancing measures that limit exercise.

“As self-isolation escalates and people find themselves working from home and unable to physically catch up with their friends and family, we’re likely to see more people feel lonely and disconnected,” she said.

 “Exercise has always been a great strategy for people struggling with these feelings as it boosts both mood and health. But as gyms and exercise classes of all kinds are now closed – even jogging with a friend is strongly discouraged – people are looking for alternatives, and this is where yoga can help.

“Our research shows that movement-based yoga improved symptoms of depression (or improved mental health) for people living with a range of mental health conditions including anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and major depression. So, it’s very good news for people struggling in times of uncertainty.”

The study defined ‘movement-based yoga’ as a form of yoga where participants are physically active at least half of time, such as forms of yoga that require the holding of poses or a flow-through a sequence.

Associate Professor Simon Rosenbaum from UNSW said despite the study’s “promising results”, challenges with regards to access to programs remain.

“Importantly, the most vulnerable in our community are often the least likely to have access to exercise or yoga programs despite the potential benefits,” he said.

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