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Yoga as a therapeutic tool in forensic psychiatry

Yoga as a therapeutic tool in forensic psychiatry

In the setting of 24-hour forensic psychiatric care, staff spend a lot of time with their patients, and there is always a need to develop new activities that have a positive impact on recovery. Over the past year and a half, patients have been able to participate in trauma-adaptive yoga.

The yoga group includes 5-6 patients with different backgrounds and problems.
-There will be a very nice and safe atmosphere in the group. Patients feel calm, toned and relaxed when the yoga class is over. Everyone feels good about it, including me,” says Tina Jarvenpää.

There are no difficult exercises

She has done a lot of yoga herself and was recently trained as a yoga instructor. She tells us that there are many preconceptions about yoga, for example that it involves difficult exercises such as standing on your head. However, because the exercises have been adapted to not cause the trauma that many patients carry with them, they do not perform strenuous exercises or difficult poses. Instead, the focus is on balance, stretching and relaxation exercises. Approximately half of the program is performed sitting in a chair.

Positive response

The Forensic Psychiatry Center has an activity center whose mission is to promote patients' health through various activities. As part of the business development, unit manager Annette Muriel Niklasson encouraged occupational therapist Tina Jarvenpää to start trauma-adaptive yoga in the clinic. The first yoga group started in Trelleborg in January 2023, and now a year and a half later, the third group has started. The response from both patients and staff is positive.

The form of yoga is called “trauma-adaptive yoga” and was developed at the Boston Trauma Center. It focuses on addressing the traumas that many forensic psychiatric patients carry. Similar methods are used in the correctional system and are called cream yoga. With the positive results that the correctional service has been able to show, the method has now been adapted to also be able to help forensic psychiatric patients.

Part of a research project

Yoga in Forensic Psychiatry in Trelleborg is part of a research project associated with the University of West, which involves forensic psychiatry operations across the country. To contribute to the research, Trelleborg sent data from five participants who practiced yoga twice a week for 10 weeks.

Data from a control group of nine patients who participated in other common physical activity are also presented. An evaluation study is currently underway and an interim report is expected in the summer. But it's already clear to Tina how successful yoga is for forensic psychiatric patients.

– Participants in the yoga group feel that it brings a sense of calm. Patients with psychotic symptoms describe that they “put their mind in flight mode” during yoga. There is a break from everything around you and you feel more collected. Some patients have attended several classes and this is a very good score, says Tina Jarvenpaa.

Yoga facts

Yoga as a physical activity is associated with:

  • Increased level of impulse control, suppression of anger, aggression, and decreased antisocial behavior
  • Reducing the occurrence of paranoid thoughts, depression, anxiety and avoidance behavior as well as reducing perceived stress.
  • Increased positive emotional state and decreased negative emotional state
  • Increased interest
  • Increased personality maturity (self-control, responsibility).
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