Yoga and Meditation for Agoraphobia
Originating from the Greek words meaning “fear of the marketplace,” agoraphobia is a far more complex disorder than researchers once thought. Statistics show that three out of every hundred people have panic disorders, and one or two of these three have some degree of agoraphobia. Although females are twice as likely to be diagnosed than males, it may be because women are more likely to ask for help or freely express their emotions.
Treatment often includes medication and psychotherapy. The use of cognitive behavioral training provides information about the condition and seeks to change negative habits or thinking patterns. Studies show that relaxation techniques, such as Yoga, help to control breathing and encourage physical and mental health.
In “Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing,” author Timothy McCall, medical doctor and Yoga teacher, says that ancient Yogic texts categorize three types of energy that affect behavior and manifest themselves as excitability, fear and lucidity. Depending on personal needs, practitioners benefit from specific asanas and other Yogic techniques.
Studies Show Yoga Helps to Manage Agoraphobia
• A 1992 study done at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found mindfulness meditation to be an effective means of reducing and controlling anxiety symptoms in patients with panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder accompanied by agoraphobia. More recent research has confirmed the benefits of other kinds of meditation, as well.
• Not only does shallow breathing increase anxiety, but panic attacks affect the body’s autonomic nervous system, increasing heart beat, trembling and sweating and making breathing difficult. Pranayama, one of the main tenets of Yoga, uses breathing techniques to calm the nervous system and reverse physical and psychological symptoms.
• The goal of Yoga is union of the mind, body, and spirit. Some poses, however, are particularly helpful in coping with agoraphobia. Restorative poses, inversions and forward bends burn nervous energy and reduce anxiety. “Yoga for Stress Relief,” a DVD by Yoga instructor Barbara Benagh, includes a 30-minute lecture by the Dalai Lama on stress reduction and a collection of 20 different routines that target individual concerns.
For medical professionals or Yogis who want more detail, the books of David Shannahoff-Khalsa, scientific researcher and Yogic therapist, list protocols for a comprehensive list of physical and psychiatric illnesses. His latest release, “Kundalini Yoga Meditation for Complex Psychiatric Disorders,” was published in 2010 and includes treatments published for the first time.