Yoga means ‘union’. It implies the union of mind and the body. It has been part of the ancient Indian wisdom and has been practised since many millennia. It’s a way of life that transcends religions, socio-economic strata, creed or gender. There are four paths of yoga, namely, karma yoga (active path), Jnana Yoga (philosophical path), Bhakti Yoga(devotional path) and Raja Yoga (scientific path). From the above, Raja Yoga is the most popular path taken by many to achieve mental well-being. Raja Yoga employs eight steps:
Yoga is culturally acceptable, needs minimal supervision, is largely free of side effects when practised properly and last but not the least, it gives the patient a sense of control over their illness. These distinctive qualities of yoga contribute to its universal appeal.
Today there is ample evidence to suggest that yoga improves the levels of Serotonin and Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which are low in patients suffering from depression. It also attenuates the over-active hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis in patients of depression and provides relief from fatigue and being chronically stressed out.
Along with depression and anxiety, yoga is proven to improve cognition in patients with schizophrenia. It improves negative symptoms like avolition, anhedonia, asociality. It helps by releasing oxytocin, a hormone which improves bonding with others. Apart from the patients, yoga also helps their caregivers by reducing their stress levels.