Yoga as complementary care for patients in forensic psychiatry 

In recent years, several scientific studies have shown evidence that regular practice of yoga has positive effects for people with mental illness and for inmates with antisocial behaviour.

However, the effect of yoga has not yet been tested according to strict scientific criteria for patients with coexisting mental diagnoses and aggressive and antisocial behaviours. Swedish forensic psychiatry annually receives more than 200 patients sentenced to forensic psychiatric care. They by definition have psychiatric problems (schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance-related disorders, neuropsychiatric disabilities) coexisting with aggressive and / or antisocial behaviours.

According to our and others' previous research, yoga has no negative effects. It gives the practitioner increased ability for attention and impulse control and it increases positive affects while negative effects such as hostility, antisocial behaviours, self-harming behaviours, depression, stress and mental suffering are reduced.

In this project (“RPV-yoga”), we intend to evaluate the psychobiological effects of practicing yoga on men and women sentenced to forensic psychiatric care in Sweden. The proposed study will use previously validated psychological measures to assess in a "single subject design" the effect of an eight-week intervention of yoga for adults sentenced to forensic psychiatric care in Sweden. With the help of structured interviews, information about aggression, pain, substance use and psychological suffering is collected, before the participant starts practicing yoga, the interviews are then repeated after eight weeks of yoga practice and then eight weeks after the end of yoga practice.

Our hypothesis is that eight weeks of (specially adapted) yoga within forensic psychiatric care will reduce the degree of aggression, antisocial behaviours, pain and negative emotional states such as depression and anxiety and lead to increased positive emotional states.

As a result of increased well-being, yoga will enhance the success of other ongoing treatments, provide a positive tool and potentially offer a prosocial activity when discharged from forensic psychiatric care.