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Does Yoga Help Reduce Schizophrenia Symptoms?

How yoga could foster better quality of life for schizophrenia patients.

Key points

  • Many studies have focused on the impacts of yoga on depression, but few have studied schizophrenia.
  • One of the first studies investigated a modified practice of yoga on patients with schizophrenia disorders.
  • Yoga was found to provide significant benefits to patient well-being.
  • Benefits included increased self-compassion, interoceptive awareness, better social functioning, and more.
Unsplash with Dylan Gills
Unsplash with Dylan Gills

Mind-body therapies have been increasingly popular in recent decades. The idea behind meditation, yoga, tai chi, and mindfulness is that it helps center people with overpowering emotions and gets them to focus on the present. Mind-body treatments have been found to help with depression and anxiety, but what is known about their effect on schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia, by nature, is characterized by cognitive, sensory, and emotional disorder, so it would make sense to suspect that mind-body therapies might help with some of the cognitive and emotional symptoms. Patients who are hospitalized tend to have increased negative symptoms that render the patient more dysfunctional than those who can live with their disorder outside of an inpatient clinic.

Studies have focused on yoga and its effects on outpatient populations, but what about for those who need more help with more serious debilitating conditions?

How Was the Yoga Practice Conducted?

A study investigated the effects of a four-week intervention of yoga practice in an inpatient hospital setting on patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Nineteen patients participated in the intervention in addition to normal treatment, such as medication and therapy, while 14 patients continued with normal treatment alone.

The yoga practice was conducted as a 50-minute class that was modified to fit the individualized requirements specifically for schizophrenia spectrum disorder patients. Out of an instruction manual, the practice was carefully selected and developed by psychiatrists, psychologists, yoga teachers, and the patients themselves. The goal was to choose poses and a practice that would be accessible to all of the patients regardless of their physical activity levels.

Mats were arranged in a circle to foster social connection, and props such as blankets and blocks were used to enhance the comfort and ease of the patients in their practice. The practice even included modifications for those who wanted or needed to sit in a chair and for those who had physical limitations. Prolonged periods of silence were minimized and instructions were conducted using simple language.

Afterward, patients could express how they felt and what they wanted to do in the next session.

How Was Well-Being Measured?

Researchers measured baseline and post-intervention symptoms with qualitative interviews as well as self-report measures such as the Positive and Negative Symptom Scale (PNSS), Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia (CDSS), and Personal Social Performance Scale (PSP). These scales measure positive symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions as well as blunted affect and depression. Social functioning was measured by social activity in work and study, personal and interpersonal relationships, self-care, and disturbing and aggressive behavior.


The study found that at baseline, patients had the desire to improve their stress levels and reduce symptoms. What is interesting to note is that a small number of participants expressed hesitation to pursue the yoga treatment, fearing that it would worsen symptoms. Some patients indicated that they had difficulty accessing their internal sense of emotional awareness, and some expressed skepticism that yoga would suddenly make them better.

However, the results proved their worries wrong. The yoga intervention was found to significantly increase their ability to relax, increase bodily awareness, feel socially connected, and experience an increased sense of spirituality.

Patients expressed an increased ability to self-regulate their emotions, including anxiety, sleep disorders, distraction, and relieving pain. Patients also returned to yoga poses as coping mechanisms when symptoms came up.

The yoga intervention also increased self-compassion. Many of those who experience schizophrenia disorders often have shame, guilt, lack of self-confidence, fear, and motivation difficulty.

Yoga allowed the patients to focus on their personal needs emotionally as well as physically, which allowed them to focus on their own well-being, which affected the rest of their daily functioning.

In sum, yoga interventions show promise in helping patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders.


Töbelmann, L., Hahne, I., Schulze, T., Bergmann, N., Fuchs, L., Zierhut, M., ... & Böge, K. (2023). Mechanisms of action and processes of yoga-based group intervention for inpatients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders–A longitudinal qualitative study. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 14, 1086468.

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