Their findings could be used to develop specific mind-body programmes for the prevention and treatment of these conditions, they say, in conjunction with standard treatments.
“Western and Eastern medicine complement one another. Yoga is known to improve stress-related nervous system imbalance” says Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, Chris Streeter.
Prof Streeter explains that the study provides a theory “based on neurophysiology and neuroanatomy”
It helps “to understand how yoga helps patients feel better by relieving symptoms in many common disorders.”
An earlier study at the same college compared a walking group and a yoga group over a 12 week period.
It found that the yoga group had an increase in GABA levels – a neurotransmitter which helps combat anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress, depression, epilepsy and chronic pain.
In a second 12-week study, patients with chronic low back pain responded to a yoga intervention with increased GABA levels.
They also had a significant reduction in pain compared to a group receiving standard care alone.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Boston School, New York Medical College and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The researchers are beginning test these theories by incorporating mind-body therapies such as yoga in their clinical studies of a wide range of stress-related medical and psychological conditions.
Their findings are published online in Medical Hypotheses.