OCD Anna Ashby and Paulina Novak by YogaClicks


Stress can make OCD symptoms like compulsive checking and cleaning worse. So, reducing stress can be a powerful tool in OCD treatment.

Strong yoga asana (physical postures), meditation, and deep, slow breathing exercises using pranayama techniques can focus the mind away tension-creating obsessional thoughts and calm an overworked nervous system. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol are reduced, blood pressure and heart rate lowered, and oxygen uptake improved.

Mindfulness alongside the practice of Tratak, or candle gazing, has also been reported as helpful - stimulating and calming the pituitary gland.

There’s very limited research in this area but the available evidence suggests that pranayama can bring significant improvements on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS), the Symptoms Checklist-90-R, and the Perceived Stress Scale.

What the clinical studies say

  • Improvements on the Perceived Stress Scale
  • Improvements on the Symptoms Checklist-90-R
  • Improvements on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS)

The clinical studies

Clinical case report: efficacy of yogic techniques in the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorders.
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness

The aim of this study was to investigate the clinical efficacy of yogic techniques in the treatment of eight adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

A specific yogic breathing pattern has been prescribed for the treatment of OCD, as well as others for treating generalized anxiety. A one year course of therapy was followed.

Subjects improved on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) comparing baseline with three, six, nine, & 12 month results (one-way ANOVA for repeated measures, F(4, 12) = 3.343, p <.046). Five patients completed the study (Y-BOCS results were 83%, 79%, 65%, 61 % improvement, and one at -18%), group mean improvement of + 54%. The Symptoms Checklist-90-R showed significant improvement comparing baseline and 12 months using two-tailed T-tests for OCD (t = 13.856, p <.001), anxiety (t = 3.167, p <.051), and global severity indexes (t = 7.314, p =.005). Perceived Stress Scale scores showed significant improvement for the five test periods (one way ANOVA for repeated measures, F (4, 12) = 9.114, p <.001). Five patients were well stabilized on fluoxetine prior to the study, three stopped medication after seven months or less, and two significantly reduced it, one by 25% and the other by 50%.

These techniques, merit further study under controlled conditions and could help lead to new approaches for the treatment of OCD and perhaps other impulse control and anxiety-related disorders.


David S. Shannahoff-khalsa |  Liana R. Beckett


International Journal of Neuroscience
Volume / Issue

Author's primary institution

The Research Group for Mind-Body Dynamics, Institute for Nonlinear Science, University of California, San Diego, California

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