Yoga for Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar Disorder is a mental condition that causes period of abnormally elevated moods. These moods are also call mania or manic stages. A person with bipolar disorder may exhibit fits of rage or anger.  Many become incapable of making rational decisions.  Impulsive behaviors such as overspending and hyper sexuality become the primary focus.  The needs for instant gratification or pleasure become an addiction because it offers an escape from the emotional pain that is felt while they are manic. When one chooses to focus on something they may work at it for days without feeling the need to take a break or sleep. The disorder, which primarily effects emotions, wreaks havoc on the mind because of the inability to control ones thoughts. 

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder often involves psychotherapy as well as mood stabilizers and antipsychotics. Benzodiazepines are a common treatment method but these medications have been known to cause dependency and harsh withdrawals symptoms if they are not used properly.  Some people do not respond well to pharmaceutical treatment and choose to self medicate with drugs or alcohol.  A new popular method of relief is Cannabis.  It is not clearly understood if Bipolar Disorder is genetic or environmental. A person with a history of child abuse is more likely to be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and other mental conditions. Bipolar Disorder is diagnosed in men and woman between the ages of 20 and 30 but for some, the condition can show up as early as the teenage years. 

Research has shown that stress can trigger bipolar episodes. One single traumatic event can be catastrophic for a person with bipolar disorder. In some cases, individuals have been hospitalized. During a clinical sample, 50% of the participants with bipolar disorder had attempted suicide. The life expectancy of someone with a psychiatric disorder is measured by reductions, which shows the average between men and woman, 8 to 12 years less than someone without the disorder.

There are different types of Bipolar disorder. People with Bipolar Disorder I experience a severe depressive and full blown manias. Approximately 1 percent of the general population has Bipolar Disorder I (National Institute of Mental Health 2003). This population suffers from a psychotic like episode and can return to the normal state without remembering it happened. For example, if a person feels anger they might lash out in a psychotic manner and return to a normal state forgetting their behavior took place. 

Bipolar Disorder II is a more common type of the disorder that presents itself with mild depression and periods of hypomania. Many individuals with this type are often seen as moody as their moods tend to shift from happy to sad and it becomes a cycle but they are more likely to stay in a depressed episode longer than a hypomanic episode. During a hypomanic episode a person can feel positive and happy for a period of time but then quickly return to the depressed episode. 

Rapid cycling bipolar disorder is another type is more common in men than in women. Rapid cycling is termed for people who experience 4 or more manic or depressive episodes in a twelve -month period. For some with rapid cycling the episodes can be experiences monthly, weekly or even daily.  Those with rapid cycling bipolar disorder tend to deal with more depression than the other types of the disorders.

When a person is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder there is usually an accompanying mental illness present such as anxiety and depression.  Research has shown that physical fitness helps people manage the symptoms of these illnesses along with other treatments safely and effectively.


Yoga is one of the many useful ways to manage mental illness.   Avoiding stimulants like caffeine, nicotine and sugar can also help a person who suffers from this disorder. Anything that has a calming effect on the body and mind to aid with stress and anxiety can help a person with Bipolar Disorder manage symptoms. Yoga is a very calming way to treat Anxiety, Depression, PTSD and other mental health issues as well. 


Yoga is an ancient combination of controlled breathing, disciplined movements and meditation. The history of yoga originates somewhere between 400BC and 200 AD.   It can more commonly be described as a slow form of exercise that can help you connect your mind to the Universal divine consciousness.  Yoga can also contribute to your overall health by improving sleep and help manage other chronic illnesses. Yoga involves stretching and balancing the body in poses during controlled breathing and meditation. Learning this combination brings along the benefits of feeling more calm and invigorated which can help manage stress and anxiety. 

A survey conducted by Brown University confirmed that most people who use yoga to treat their bipolar disorder had positive results. The participants reported the overall time it took to feel the benefits were between 3 months to one year. Many of the individuals on this survey panel claimed the benefits of yoga were life changing. It helped them to live in the present moment and stop worrying about their thoughts.  The main struggle for someone with Bipolar disorder is the mind and thought process. For people with this disorder, the mind never shuts off. Often sleep is the only time they feel relief. Insomnia becomes an issue for some and sedation becomes a sought after approach to shut down. 

Yoga has psychological benefits for bipolar disorder and many other mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, PTSD and eating disorders. A recent Harvard survey showed that yoga was in integral part of treating mental illness such as an eating disorder. Yoga studios often don’t have mirrors so that the person can focus their awareness inward and not worry about anything else that surrounds them. Yoga can help a person with mindful eating, helping to establish good health habits when it comes to what we choose to put in our bodies. When a person chooses to eat to nourish the body instead of choosing foods by sight, smell, taste and emotion, it eliminates the need for stress or binge eating. Proper nutrition is essential to healing the mind. 

Sometimes we make food choices that interfere with health related issues. A person who suffers from Bipolar disorder should limit the amount of things that cause the most symptoms. For people involved in the study, those who chose to eliminate alcohol, sugar, caffeine and nicotine and chose a healthier diet and exercise showed an overall improvement in their mental and physical health.  Another study found that Yoga also has many cardiovascular benefits as it has been proven to lower blood pressure and lower blood glucose (sugar) levels in those with type 2 diabetes. 

Yoga is a way to bring exercise and peace together. This traditional exercise can have a significant impact on the neurochemical level. The Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 2013 published a study where patients were assigned yoga for their treatment of bipolar depression. Cotisol levels were tested before and after and the levels of the stress hormone were reduced significantly concluding that on balance to various systems in the body was restored on a biochemical level.

Yoga is something you can learn at home that requires a minimal amount of equipment. A yoga mat is a staple along with some other supportive devices that are available but not required.  A wide variety of learning tools are offered to help get you started if you want to learn. Television shows, books, DVDs and online tutorials are popular ways to help you learn yoga but many opt for the classes offered by a professional yoga instructor. Classes can be individual or group. Many fitness centers offer classes with yoga instructors to help you with your fitness needs. 

There are many different types of yoga. Hatha Yoga is an example of yoga that is and has been proven to help with stress. Hatha yoga, which literally means “union through discipline of force,” stresses body movement mastery as a way of obtaining spiritual perfection when the mind is withdrawn from the present moment. Yoga postures are called asanas. Hatha yoga asanas are ideal for building strength, flexibility and mind concentration.  Hatha Yoga is a common yoga practice for beginners and people who want something a little slower paced. 

Vinyasa , commonly referred to as “one flow”  is another style of yoga that relates to the transition between two different positions. The word Vinyasa can be described as “arranging something in a special way.” It is the coordination of movement and breath from one pose to the next. This style of yoga is more like gymnastics.  Participants can expect to move vigorously throughout a session. 

Bikram Yoga is a form of hot yoga performed in temperatures that may exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It consists of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. All Bikram yoga classes begin by running for 90 minutes. A single session of Bikram can have its participants burn off a whopping 1000 calories. This form of yoga definitely has its cardiovascular benefits.

For people with Bipolar Disorder, their symptoms can have an impact on their relationships. It is good to have a support system with people that understand the disorder. Having Bipolar disorder can affect things like work and social interaction. Knowing and avoiding your triggers is one way to help you manage your symptoms. Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder can last for decades and far too often medications stop working or never help with symptoms. 

People are always looking for new ways to cope with mental illness. In addition to yoga, a new trend has hit involving yoga and goats. Yoga with goats offers a lighthearted approach to a pretty serious practice. Animal therapy in general has its perks. Serious allergy sufferers have reported little to no allergic reactions when they interact with a goat as opposed to a cat or dog. Who could walk away with a frown on their face after a cute baby goat jumped on their lap? 

Anyone can practice yoga.  It is considered safe and can benefit people of all ages but people with certain health conditions should be careful. Of course when trying something new with your health it is always important to consult your physician first.  Not everyone can do all the postures. Everyone person has different abilities. You should know you own abilities before trying out many of the postures. Postures can be modified, which is why it is important to talk with an instructor about what is right for you. 

Yoga is something that takes a lot of practice. The more you practice the more you will see the benefits. Practicing yoga regularly can transform your body and your mind. It can help create a more positive attitude toward life. It also strengthens your muscles and keeps your strong. For many, yoga has been the cure for whatever ails them. If you are looking for a natural cure or just a way to enhance your treatment, yoga comes highly recommended by many.