Your next downward dog could do more than stretch your back: A new review indicates yoga helps ease stress-related medical and psychological conditions.

An article by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), New York Medical College (NYMC), and the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (CCPS) reviews evidence that yoga may be effective in treating patients with stress-related psychological and medical conditions such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiac disease. The article is published online in Medical Hypothesis, published by Elsevier.

Their theory could be used to develop specific mind-body practices for the prevention and treatment of these conditions in conjunction with standard treatments.

“Western and Eastern medicine complement one another. Yoga is known to improve stress-related nervous system imbalances,” said Chris Streeter, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at BUSM and Boston Medical Center, who is the study’s lead author. Streeter believes that “This paper provides a theory, based on neurophysiology and neuroanatomy, to understand how yoga helps patients feel better by relieving symptoms in many common disorders.”

In crafting this neurophysiological theory of how yoga affects the nervous system, Streeter collaborated with Patricia Gerbarg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at NYMC, Domenic A. Ciraulo, M.D., chairman of psychiatry at BUSM, Robert Saper, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at BUSM, and Richard P. Brown, M.D., associate clinical professor of psychiatry at CCPS.

They are beginning test these theories by incorporating mind-body therapies such as yoga in their clinical studies of a wide range of stress-related medical and psychological conditions.

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