Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can cause changes in your energy and mood as well as your overall ability to function. People with bipolar disorder have “mood episodes,” which are periods of intense emotional states. Stress has been shown to worsen bipolar disorder.
Anything that relieves stress and anxiety may be useful for managing bipolar disorder. Yoga can be a helpful addition to an overall treatment plan for bipolar disorder. It incorporates physical, meditative, and emotional elements that may help you manage your condition.
Yoga is calming for many people. It involves a combination of disciplined movement, controlled breathing, and meditation. This combination can leave you feeling relaxed and invigorated.
Yoga can also contribute to your overall physical fitness by targeting your flexibility and balance. Along with adequate sleep and a nutritious diet, exercise (flexibility, aerobic, and strength) forms the basis of general good health. Good overall health can help you deal with a chronic illness like bipolar disorder.
How Does It Work?
Yoga usually involves stretching and balancing your body in specific stances, called poses, while practicing controlled breathing and meditation. This combination often leaves people feeling calmer, yet invigorated. It may help you manage stress. Stress can trigger mood episodes if you have bipolar disorder.
There are different levels and types of yoga. Some of the types of yoga that you may see offered at a yoga studio include:
- Hatha yoga, a calmer type of yoga that is good for beginners and is often used to help manage stress
- Iyengar yoga, a relaxing type of yoga that uses props such as blocks to help you hold a pose
- Bikram yoga, also known as “hot” yoga, which is done in a heated room
- Vinyasa yoga, also known as “flow” yoga, which is often faster paced and can be more challenging for beginners
- power yoga, which is often a fitness-oriented type of vinyasa yoga
Yoga shouldn’t take the place of conventional treatments for bipolar disorder. You should continue taking any medications prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor may also recommend alternative therapies, such as talk therapy.
Who Can Practice Yoga?
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years by a large variety of people, and is generally considered safe. Almost anyone can learn how to do it.
It’s a good idea to practice poses that are within your skill range.
Availability of Classes
You can learn yoga at home, using instructional books, DVDs, television shows, or online tutorials. However, attending regular classes can help you learn from a professional yoga teacher. Many yoga studios offer beginner’s classes that will teach you the basics. Going to beginner’s classes can help you learn how to practice each pose correctly. This can reduce your risk of injury.
Classes are available in most communities. There are several different styles of yoga. Sampling each of them can help you find the style that best suits you.
Yoga is generally considered safe, but people who have certain conditions should be careful. This includes pregnant women, people who have glaucoma or other eye conditions, and people with physical limitations.
A survey done by Brown University found that although most people with bipolar disorder who practiced Hatha yoga had very positive results, some people did report negative side effects. These included agitation from rapid breathing and feeling self-critical about their abilities. Practicing yoga in an environment where you feel comfortable and accepted, within your ability, may be the most helpful.
As with any exercise program, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting yoga.
What the Expert Says
“Like meditation, controlling your thoughts and emotions through your body is a powerful experience that is the opposite of depression and anxiety. Being able to be the master of your own mind is the opposite of bipolar disorder when you feel out of control. Yoga teaches you strategies of self-control,” said Dr. Soroya Bacchus, a psychiatrist who practices in California.