"While much emphasis in psychiatric care focuses on using
the mind to unlock the mind and using medications to quiet
it, I have found that using the body to free the mind is
an extremely powerful tool. Grounding the breath and the
body through Yoga allows the mind to follow the path of the
body. This moving meditation creates a sense of peace and
of control that can be so elusive to this population.
Movements can be considered thoughts of the body; when
conscious movement becomes smoother, more orderly, and more
beautiful, it can bring these qualities to the mind itself.
Those who are most cut off from their own breath and bodies
reap the results of awakening this connection profoundly."
(Healing Mind and Body: Using Therapeutic Yoga
in the Treatment of Schizophrenia, Visceglia, 2007)
Yoga is an ancient holistic practice intended to increase physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Its practise involves combinations of physical movements and postures, vocalizations, breathing, and meditation, and is uselful for a wide range of afflictions (Shannahoff-Khalsa, 2010).
Yoga is increasingly accepted as a complementary therapy which contributes to reduction of symptoms of numerous psychological conditions such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, mood disorders, as well as psychoses, including schizophrenia (Weintraub, 2012; Duraiswamy, Thirthalli, Nagendra & Gangadhar, 2007). Yoga therapy is also offered in conjunction with medical treatments for prevention and treatment of diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
Studies on the efficacy of yoga therapy are still in the early stages, but the importance of yoga therapy, is acknowledged by leaders in major academic medical centers and elsewhere (Shannahoff-Khalsa, 2010). In a randomized controlled trial, yoga not only reduced symptoms of paranoia and suicide ideation in a population of clinically stable institutionalized patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, but, according to the study’s authors, “hospital physicians reported that several ‘difficult’ patients were markedly calmer, less aggressive, and functioning better overall,” and the patients enjoyed the experience. (Visceglia & Lewis, 2011).
According to Dr. Shannahoff-Khalsa, approximately 50% of schizophrenics have hallucinations. The yogic view is that a person with schizophrenia who is hallucinating is “experiencing the world of dreams and the world of ordinary waking consciousness at the same time…having lost the ability to differentiate between these two states of consciousness during the event…” This is caused by “trauma, stress and damage to the nervous system and chakras (energy centers).” Another vital dimension to understand about and in the treatment of the schizophrenia person is that he “has a deep sense of self and a reverence for this deep sense, but the world rejects it and this becomes part of the underlying problem. The patient wants others to revere his deep self, and in addition, the patient is afraid of his deep self, but only because the patient sees the world reacting negatively to his experience of self.” (Shannahoff-Khalsa, 2010, p.44-52.)
Dr. Shannahoff-Khalsa utilizes a very specific and detailed Kundalini yoga protocol for schizophrenia which he describes in detail, along with other meditations. He states this combination “has been the most widely tested and it has always been successful for treating schizophrenic patients.” (Shannahoff-Khalsa, 2010, p. 54-74). The protocol has four major components: an essential practice called Tuning In; a 10 part exercise called True Glue, which helps to realign the spiritual bodies for treating and preventing psychotic episodes; a meditation technique called Gan Puttee Kriya; and a meditation technique to help combat delusions and to help stabilize a healthy sense of self-identity. Success depends on a person’s ability and will to progress, as well as mutual feeling of love and respect between the patient and coordinator. These four components involve very specific movements, positions, breathing, and chants. The following descriptions are much abbreviated and incomplete, but hopefully provide some flavor. For Tuning In, the practitioner sits with a straight spine, either cross legged on the floor, or sitting in a chair with feet flat on the floor. The hands are pressed together in a prayer pose, the thumbs resting on the sternum, and the eyes closed and focused on the “third eye” (between the eye brows). A mantra is chanted and coordinated with the breath, attention being focused on the vibrations created by the sounds on the upper palate and throughout the cranium.
True Glue consists of 10 separate exercises, of which the first five are briefly described.
Sitting on the floor or on the ground, as in True Glue, the hands and arms are raised overhead, in a V, with palms facing forward. Keeping the head up straight, the spine is flexed back and forth, at 1 or 2 times per minute for no more than 2 minutes.
Sitting, rms are held up, elbows and forearms forming a 90 degree angle, and the tips of the index fingers and thumbs touching in a posture called “gyan mudra.” The spine, torso and arms are twisted to the left on inhalation, to the right on exhalation for 2 minutes.
Lying on back, legs out straight and arms out straight behind the head. Inhaling throught nose, arms and legs raised up 90 degrees perpendicular to the floor. Lower and raise for 1 minute.
Kneeling with arms raised as in 1, exhale through nose and bow to floor with arms extended in front of body on floor with palms down.
Inhale through the nose, and strke a camel pose, then exhale and lower the body into a baby pose. Alternate for 2 minutes.
For the Gan Puttee Kriya meditation, one must sit with a straight spine on the floor or in a chair, with backs of the hands resting on the knees, palms facing up. The eyes are almost closed, looking at the third eye. They must then chant out loud the following 12 sounds, each sound with a corresponding mudra or finger pose: Sa, Ta, Na, Ma, Ra, Ma, Da, Sa, Sa, Say, So, Hung. The chant is one sound every second, starting with 11 minutes of chanting, and working up to 31 minutes.
The meditation to help combat delusions and to help stabilize a healthy sense of self-identity, requires, like all the meditations, sitting with a straight back on the floor or chair. Both arms are held out to the side, with the elbows bent 90 degrees and the forearms pointing straight up. The eyes focus on the tip of the nose. The mantra “Humee Hum Brahm Hum” is chanted While chanting “Humee Hum” and blessing yourself, the left hand touches the top of the head, and returns to the original position while chanting “Brahm Hum.” The meditation is 11 minutes.
There are other meditations to, for instance, overcome compulsive behavior, overcome psychological weaknesses, balance various parts of the brain, correct language and communication disorders, and terminate hallucinations.