yoga teacher trainingBy Monique Lanthier

Can yoga cure bipolar disorder? Researches have proven that yoga can help depression. Depression is one of the symptoms of bipolar disorder, it is wise to say that yoga can help individuals with bipolar disorder. Is there a cure? Unfortunately no. Just like diabetes, there’s is no cure. With proper medications, lifestyles changes and awareness of the disorder, an individual can control the onsets of mania and depression phases.

This essay will enhance your knowledge of bipolar disorder, and bring you awareness of the positive impact of yoga has a mean of lifestyle change which has a positive impact of the quality of life of the individual with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is mainly known for its abnormal fluctuations of mood swings; that goes from one pole to the next. These mood swings varies from periods of excitement known as manic phase, to periods of serious melancholy known as depression stage. Bipolar is not to be taken lightly, this extreme mood swings can have severe impact on the individual and to all the people surrounding him. Behaviours such as extreme spending, psychosis, weeks of insomnia, severe depression, aggressive behaviour, suicide attempts and suicide are common behaviour for a bipolar individual.

In between these periods of mania and depression, there is a period of stability, which is not always a period of joy, because the individual faces the consequences of the onset of manic or depressive state, such as bankruptcy, loss of friendship, loss of spouse, loss of work, legal issues, and so forth.

The organisation for bipolar affective disorders states that 3% of the population has this condition; and not all of them are diagnosed, and not all of them diagnosed have the proper medication and lifestyle changes.

There are different types of bipolar disorder known as

Type 1 bipolar

Type 2 bipolar

Rapid cycling



• Complete information of these types and variations can be found on the web side of the Institute of Mental Health.

These mood swings are caused by a manifestation of chemical imbalances of the brain. These chemicals substances such are noradrenalin, dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters. In bipolar disorder, there’s an alteration of the neurotransmitters, which affect the mental state of the individual. Depression arises when .serotonin and noradrenalin diminish and manic episode arises when there’s an excess of dopamine.

There’s no clinical study that proves that yoga alone can cure bipolar disorder. The centre for Addiction and Mental Health are presently undergoing a clinical trial on the impact of yoga on bipolar individual. The clinical trial started in September 2007 and should be concluded in February 2011. The hypothesis of this study would like to prove that bipolar individuals that are treated with yoga and medications would show a reduction of depressive symptoms and an enhancement of a quality of life compared to the individuals that are treated with psycho education and medication.

As mentioned above, depression stages are triggered by a diminishment of serotonin. Many researches and reports shown us that in Yoga practice, the serotonin level increases; therefore when it’s done on a regular basis it is unilateral to say that depression is decreased.

Yoga is not only a question of poses but also breathing and meditation. Breathing is an essential part of yoga practice. Exhalation as a calming effect on the body,; therefore when the individual is agitated it would be wise to practice retention breathing. This practice would oxygenate the blood. On the other hand, when the patient is depressed, it would be helpful to focus on vital energy known as prana. Prana is in every living thing but mainly in the air we breathe and when we breathe in prana we store it in the solar plexus area. This stored energy will be helpful for the depressive épisodes. According to the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience in India; hatha yoga has a success role for treating depression. A study shows a success rate of 73% of depressive individual treated with sudarshan kriya. This rhythmical breathing helps the mind to produce chemical messengers that travels the nervous system to the immune system which results in an overall betterment of the body and the mind.

Yoga is the union of the body, the mind and the soul. One of the main objectives is to bring the mind under control. In a bipolar individual, the mind swings from one pole to the next. Needless to say, yoga practice could help stabilize the mind from its lethargic or agitated state.

Yoga is often accompanied by meditation. In meditation we learn to shut out thoughts. Easier said than done, but just like anything else it should be practice on a regular basis and the individual will be able attain a level of ultimate concentration and devotion. Bipolar minds are greatly agitated during manic state and negative thoughts enter the mind in depressive state.  Meditation would help the individual with bipolar disorder to accept and shut out the thoughts and focus on the present moment. Focussing on the present moment is a practice that should be done on our daily activities and not just during meditation. When an individual is walking he should concentrate on walking, when he’s drinking water he should enjoy the refreshing moment.

As mention before, a bipolar individual should make lifestyle changes such as exercising, omitting alcohol and drugs, eating properly and sleeping adequately. Sounds familiar. A yoga way of life is all about satvic food, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, water and dairy products. A bipolar daily diet should consists of 6 to 8 glasses of water,10 portions of fruits and vegetables , two portions of carbohydrate and proteins at every meals Proteins can be from animal meat; but eating red meat is not beneficial on the nervous system and bipolar need to apply changes to avoid mood swings.

Exercise should be part of a bipolar individual daily routine. Exercises stimulate the metabolism, oxygenate the blood and enhance the reproduction of endorphin which brings a sensation of well being.

In Yoga practice, some poses are meant to be calming and others energizing. It is important for the bipolar individuals to be aware of the state is in; and chose the pose that would be more beneficial for him. For example, backbends are calming and soothing. Individual should be cautious of the type of yoga ant the time of day he practice his poses. For example, bipolar individual are at high risk for insomnia; it wouldn’t be recommended to do power yoga before bedtime. Kundalini practice, meditation or relaxation would be wiser.

In conclusion, it is wise to say that a yogic way of life is beneficial for an individual with bipolar disorder. As cautioned before, yoga doesn’t replace medication. It’s practice will help the individual to listen to his body and give it the proper care to help him live a productive, happy, and healthy life.


Monique Lanthier will be teaching Yoga classes in the near future in Gatineau, (Québec), Canada.

© Copyright 2011 – Monique Lanthier

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