Yoga may not only help with anxiety, stress and symptoms of depression but may also help improve memory and concentration and decrease paranoid or obsessive thoughts.

Researchers studied a surprising way for prison inmates to minimize the symptoms of depression and improve overall brain health – yoga. In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, researchers revealed yoga has the capability to restore mental concentration, total recall and improve overall mental health. The study was conducted among prison inmates at the Swedish Prison and Probation Services.

Led by Nóra Kerekes of University West in Trollhättan, researchers were interested in understanding the relationship between complementary medical treatment options and mental health. Kerekes, a neurobiologist, said the team wanted to study how complementary interventions such as diet, physical activity like yoga, and acupuncture can improve brain function. Enhancing brain function may not always involve invasive procedures, she said.

Yoga Improves Mental Health and Lowers Obsessive Thoughts among Prison Inmates

The team recruited 152 Swedish prisoners for the study. These were male and female prisoners from high and medium security prisons across the country. One part of the group participated in 90 minutes of yoga exercises once per week for 10 weeks. The second participant group was asked to undertake other forms of fitness classes once per week for 10 weeks as well.

The two groups said they had improved psychological distress levels. But beyond this, the yoga group reported experiencing improved mental and physical alertness not seen in the fitness exercise-only group.

Kerekes emphasized that apart from the evidence that yoga “helps with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and hostility,” it also has proven benefits in “improving memory, concentration, decreasing paranoid and obsessive thoughts” among others.

“These effects of yoga joined with those previously shown effects (increasing impulse control and attention, decreasing antisocial behavior and improving emotional well-being) may be very important parts of treatment strategies for defined/specific groups of people,” Kerekes said.

The Study Is Limited By Certain Factors Which Further Research Could Resolve

While the study provides new insight into what yoga could do for prison inmates, the manner in which it was conducted limits its overall value.

For starters, the study was only centered on Swedish prisoners, meaning its conclusions may not really apply to inmates in other parts of the world. Secondly, the study focused more on male inmates than female inmates. Thirdly, the researchers did not collect blood and saliva samples which could have given insights into how the body of the inmates fared during the yoga classes and fourth, the role of yoga in preventing recidivism is not factored into the research.

The research still attests to the benefits of yoga in minimizing depression, paranoia and suicidal thoughts in prison populations. But calls for more research into using yoga to improve mental health and general wellbeing among prison inmates.

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