Research on yoga shows encouraging evidence of its value as a treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), based on a review of existing studies on yoga and anxiety disorders. The review was conducted by investigators from the School of Integrated Health at the University of Westminster in London. Since the majority of mental health disorders in the United Kingdom involve anxiety as a key symptom—and studies have found that exercise can help reduce anxiety—the scientists were interested in the potential of yoga as a clinical treatment option.

They found only eight clinical trials, of which six qualified as randomized and controlled. Most were methodologically flawed. However, the study that was most sound also showed the most encouraging results. In this trial, researchers used Kundalini yoga practices to treat OCD in 12 subjects, and there was significant mean improvement over 3 months.

Scientists recommend that more high-quality research be conducted, since yoga could be an attractive treatment option, as it does not have the adverse side effects of drug therapy and is popular and available worldwide.

The research review was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2005; 39, 884–91).