Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder marked by compulsions, obsessions or both. While behavior therapy has a high success rate for improving the condition, without necessarily curing it, many people concerned about themselves or a family member look to alternative therapies for help. Research has shown Kundalini yoga, which is particularly focused on harmonizing energy systems that govern the mind-body connection, to show promise in treating the disorder.
According to the American Psychistric Association, about 1.2 percent of adult Americans have OCD, and half of these cases are classified as "serious." The disorder affect women slightly more than men, with average onset occurring at the age of 19. From frequent hand-washing and irrational fears of germs or contamination to a compulsion to organize things beyond any reasonable need, OCD can have a serious negative impact not only on the person who experiences it but on loved ones as well.
According to David Shanahoff-Khalsa, a researcher in mind-body dynamics who has published several papers on the subject, Kundalini meditation techniques can be an effective intervention against OCD, which is considered one of the most difficult psychiatric disorders to treat. In his initial 1999 pilot study, five of eight people who completed a 12-month Kundalini program experienced improvements in their symptoms of more than 50 percent on the Yale-Brown Compulsive Scale. Of the five, three were able to stop taking medication five months before the study ended and the other two were able to reduce medication by half.
The success of the study propelled a larger follow-up with a randomized comparison study in which one group practiced a Kundalini yoga protocol, while a control group practiced relaxation response methods combined with mindfulness meditation. The Kundalini group showed significantly greater improvements on their Y-BOCS scores and other measures than the control group.
Kundalini Techniques for OCD
“Tuning in” is a customary practice before all Kundalini yoga meditations. It is conducive to meditation and creates an experience of being in a "womb of healing energy."
To perform: Sit with your spine straight, feet flat on the floor and your hands together in prayer pose. Close your eyes and focus on the “third eye” space between the brows — imagine a sun rising on the horizon. A mantra is chanted out loud in a 1 1/2 breath cycle. Inhale through your nose and chant "Ong Namo." Exhale half a breath through your mouth and chant "Guru Dev Namo," allowing yourself to experience vibrations the sound creates throughout the cranium. Repeat for a minimum of three times.
Spine Flexing for Vitality
You can do this either sitting in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. If you’re in a chair, brace yourself by holding your knees with both hands for support and leverage. If sitting cross-legged, clasp your ankles with both hands.
To perform: Start by thrusting your chest up and forward while inhaling deeply. Then as you relax the spine downward into a slouching position, exhale, keeping your head up straight and allowing the spine to move independently of it. This helps prevent neck strain. Breathe only through your nose and keep your eyes closed and focused at the “third eye.” Keep your mind focused on the sound of the breath. Begin slowly until warmed up and build up to a rapid movement. Start by doing just a few minutes. Later, there is no limit, but be sure to relax for 1 or 2 minutes at the end.
Shoulder Shrugs for Vitality
Keep your spine straight and rest the hands on your knees if you're sitting in a cross-legged position; if sitting in a chair, rest your hands on your thighs.
To perform: Inhale and lift your shoulders toward your ears. Then exhale, releasing them. Breathe only through your nose and keep your eyes closed and focused on the "third eye." Keep your awareness with the sound of the inhalation and exhalation. Continue to do the action rapidly until at the rate of 3 times per second for up to 2 minutes.