Yoga as complementary care for patients in forensic psychiatry 

Patients in forensic psychiatry have sever psychiatric diagnoses often combined with aggressive behavior and drug-related problems. They are sentenced to compulsory care that is long-term (on average about six years per patient) causing major health economic consequences. To improve the rehabilitation of these patients and offer tools for self-care that may result shortened inpatient treatment time, new and complementary efforts are needed, while maintaining the greatest importance that this care is of high quality and safety and is designed according to current research-based knowledge.

Evidence proves that regular practice of yoga has positive effects for people with mental illness and for inmates with antisocial behavior. However, the effect of yoga has not yet been tested for patients with coexisting mental illness and aggressive antisocial behavior.

In this project, we evaluate the psychobiological effects of yoga practice on men and women sentenced to forensic psychiatric care in Sweden. With previously validated psychological instruments the changes in aggression, pain, substance craving and psychological distress are measured. In addition, participants' heart rate variability is monitored, as a biological marker for the strength and flexibility of their autonomic nervous system. From patients’ journals changes in their medication is extracted. Beside these three different types of quantitative information, qualitative information about patients’ and clinical personals’ experiences about -the into forensic psychiatric care integrated - yoga is assessed.

Our hypothesis is that integration of yoga in inpatient care will reduce the degree of aggressive and antisocial behavior, pain, craving and negative emotional states, and lead to increased self-control in patients. As a result of increased well-being, yoga will enhance the success of other ongoing treatments, contribute to increased safety of the clinical- and work-environment, and offer a no pharmacological tool to sustainable positive coping strategy in patients.