Treating Schizophrenia Using the Ancient Practice of Yoga
Schizophrenia is an extremely difficult mental illness to treat, and current medication-based treatmentsdon’t work for everyone. Taking advantage of a comprehensive treatment plan that uses yoga can help you reduce many symptoms of the disorder and take control of your illness, working towards achieving a harmonious life.
“Am I a mindless fool?” asks author Ross David Burke in his autobiography that documents his experience as a paranoid schizophrenic. “My life is a fragment, a disconnected dream that has no continuity. I am so tired of senselessness. I am tired of the music that my feelings sing, the dream music.”
When schizophrenia takes hold of your life, you begin to live in cycles during which the illness is either inactive or active. The constant shift between a world dominated by delusion and one grounded in reality can be terrifying. Never knowing when your mask of sanity is going to slip and whether what you are experiencing or feeling is reflective of reality can take its toll on both you and the people around you.
Taking control of your schizophrenia can seem like an impossible task. Hallucinations and false beliefs can push you to socially isolate yourself out of fear, but in reality, this isolation will do nothing positive for your life. In order to successfully get a hold on your schizophrenia, you need to become aware of the nature of the thoughts entering your mind, how they are affecting your reality, and how to keep them from tearing apart your life and the relationships with those around you.
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Medication-Based Schizophrenia Treatments
Schizophrenia is an extremely difficult mental illness to treat. Even with the use of antipsychotic drugs, many patients experience only minimal relief of their symptoms. Research has shown that positive symptoms, which include hallucinations and delusions, respond the best to medication while negative symptoms, such as apathy and lack of motivation, typically do not respond well to medication. In order to provide a balanced treatment program that addresses both of these symptom types, residential treatment that combines medication with support groups, exercise plans, eating regimens, and holistic therapies is the best option for ensuring that you have the right tools to manage your symptoms and get through the active cycles of your illness.
Yoga in a Comprehensive Treatment Plan
Yoga comprises numerous mental, physical, and spiritual practices that are designed to control the body and mind and help you achieve a state of inner harmony, allowing you to better understand and deal with the negative thoughts that you experience and release yourself from emotional distress. In modern medicine, yoga’s benefits for various mental health disorders are becoming the focus of research, and current schizophrenia treatment plans are increasingly turning to yoga as a method of improving medication-based care.
Using a combination of asanas (poses and stretches) and pranayama (systematic breathing practices), yoga can help you achieve a state of focus and relaxation that makes it easier to shine a lens on the nature of your thoughts. Understanding this nature and how it affects and distorts your reality is a key part of treating schizophrenia and helping you realize just how much it’s affecting your life and the relationships that you have with others. One study revealed the ability of yoga to improve social cognition in schizophrenic patients, allowing them to recognize emotional facial expressions better than those who did not practice yoga. As an illness that severely impacts social cognition and destroys interpersonal relationships in the process, yoga is an ideal tool to help individuals suffering from schizophrenia understand how their thoughts are negatively influencing their perception of the world and to rebalance them.
Another study found that integrating yoga-based aerobic and strength exercises into comprehensive schizophrenia treatment programs reduces psychiatric symptoms of the disorder, acute anxiety, and psychological distress. An additional study found that yoga programs designed specifically for patients with psychosis, which leave out the practice of meditation, produce cognitive benefits in individuals with schizophrenia without causing any sorts of side effects. Using postures, breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques, yoga programs for those with schizophrenia aim to provide a physical means of calming and connecting with the mind in a positive way. In fact, meditative practices, usually an integral part of yoga, can provoke psychosis in individuals suffering from psychosis—a perfect example of why using the physical body to connect with the mind is so important when applying yoga as a treatment for schizophrenia.
Similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, yoga can help individuals achieve a level of focus that allows them to ground themselves into reality and take control of the disconnect that exists between how they perceive the world and how it actually is. Research shows that yoga can reduce stress and increase vagal tone, which refers to activity in the parasympathetic nervous system and is responsible for maintaining the body’s homeostasis. Ultimately, yoga can balance your body in a way that connects you with your thoughts and shows you how they relate to the world, improving negative symptomology, cognition, feelings of well-being, and quality of life. Medication can take you only so far on its own; in order to truly take control of your schizophrenia, you must have a thorough understanding of what is taking place in your mind and how these thoughts are affecting your perception of the world around you.
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Achieving a Harmonious Life
Living with schizophrenia can be a scary ordeal, and when family members and loved ones don’t know what to do, the illness can progress and symptoms can become exacerbated. When your world is consumed by delusions and hallucinations, it’s only a matter of time before you lose focus of what is real and what isn’t. However, no matter how scary things might seem in the moment, understand that treatment can support you on the road to recovery.
Using yoga in the context of a residential treatment program, you can better understand the thoughts and emotions in your mind and promote healthy thought processes that will translate into a more positive life. Living with a mind that seems to be working against you can be terrifying, but with the right help, you can come to realize that proper understanding is the key to living in harmony with your thoughts.
Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential treatment for individuals suffering from schizophrenia, as well as other co-occurring mental health disorders, substance abuse, and process addictions. Contact usto learn how you or your loved ones can better understand how to deal with the symptoms of schizophrenia and promote a positive, harmonious life.
Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Kyson Dana