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Yoga can treat death anxiety: Study

With yoga being widely recognised as an effective stress buster, new studies have found that it is useful in treating thanatophobia, an intense and irrational fear of death.

Dr Sunil Mittal, leading psychiatrist and director of New Delhi-based Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences (CIMBS), said the fear of death can be treated through meditation and yoga.

Thanatophobia can trigger panic attacks in patients. Either traumatic past, sudden life-saving surgery, near-death experience or a serious medical illness has put many people, including youngsters, at the risk of developing thanatophobia.

“There are so many people who feel terrified with the sensation in their own bodies, after a traumatic incident. During yoga when the person changes asanas, do breathing asanas and deep relaxation there is an calming effect of the nervous system and brain which helps in overcoming traumatic incidents,” Dr Mittal said.

According to Mitali Srivastava, Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Hypnotherapist at Delhi Psychiatry Centre, CIMBS, thanatophobia sounds normal to be afraid of death since everybody knows they are going to die someday.

Yet, some people respond to this knowledge strangely as compared to others.

“Maybe the uncertainty of death makes them more anxious. Or it can be the imagination of life after death based on some religious beliefs. Anything wrong done in the past (unintentional or intentional) may increase the fear of death because the consequences in the afterlife,” Dr Srivastava said.

Dr Srivastava said that yoga has the ability to help us physically and emotionally making it an effective mode for helping people to deal with the phobia of death. Yoga can lead to significant reduction in symptoms of fear of death.