Major depression and anxiety disorders are among the most common lifetime diagnoses. In 2005, 33.3% of Americans had a diagnosis of major depression and 30.3% had an anxiety disorder (Pilkington et al., 2005). These numbers are also rising, and do not include individuals who suffer from these disorders but do not receive help or a diagnosis, an estimated 50% of individuals (Tonks, 2003).
Kozasa et al., 2008 studied the effects of Siddha Samadhi Yoga on anxiety. The following information is derived from this study.
The Siddhi Samadhi Yoga included both pranayama and Samdhi meditation. The participants practiced pranayama using Ujjayi breathing. This breathing focuses on exhaling in a way which produces sounds from the throat. The Samadhi meditation required participants to observe spontaneous thinking, while mantra was used to interrupt intrusive thoughts. Each participant received a mantra specifically chosen for them, which was dependent on personal characteristics.
The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) was used to determine the levels of anxiety on participants both before and 1 month after completing the study. This inventory provides both state anxiety (levels of anxiety in a particular moment) and trait anxiety (levels of anxiety overall, corresponding to the personality trait of the individual).
This study found a reduction in both state and trait anxiety levels after participants completed both pranayama and meditation twice a day for two weeks. These practices also increased the participants’ subjective well-being and levels of tension release. They also found an increase in well-being as compared to the control group, who did not complete pranayama or meditation.
Overall, practicing pranayama and meditation decreases anxiety, increases well-being, and increases tension release.
While this study did not include asanas (the physical poses of yoga) that many individuals immediately associate with yoga, pranayama and meditation are both included in most yoga practices. Therefore, a study that includes all 3 aspects of yoga (pranayama, meditation, and asanas) would presumably result in a larger decrease of anxiety and larger increase of well-being and tension release.