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Yoga Helps with Depression and More Good News

by Marianne Navada

Yoga helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety a recent scientific study found. Ask any regular yoga practitioner and it’s not surprising to find that improved mood is one of the benefits of a consistent yoga practice. But in order for yoga to become officially incorporated as a medically accepted therapy, studies such as these are critical. Keep in mind that psychoanalysis or “talk therapy”, developed by Sigmund Freud, wasn’t around until the 1890s. Will yoga become a mainstream treatment for depression in the near future?

The Study

Dividing participants into 2 groups (high and low dose), the study finds that the more time spent doing yoga, the more improvement we see when it comes to alleviating symptoms of depression, anxiety, and increasing positive feelings. Measuring the “dose” one needs is a step towards prescribing yoga as a part of medically treating mental health.

  • High-Dose Participants: three 90-minute yoga classes and four 30-minute homework sessions, weekly.
  • Low Dose Participants: two 90-minute yoga classes and three 30-minute homework sessions weekly.

Yoga, in this study was based on Iyengar yoga and breathing exercises.

This study controls for the effect of medication as well. Meaning the researchers designed the study so that medication use did not compromise the effects of yoga on treating depression and anxiety.

But perhaps what I like most about this particular study is that participants taking antidepressants were required to have maintained a stable dose of their medication for at least three months prior to enrolling. This makes it difficult to attribute any positive results to a medication effect only.

Gregory Scott Brown, MD

With 32 participants, one criticism of the study is the lower sample size. This is where a larger-scale study will help.

Research Paper Title: Psychological Function, Iyengar Yoga, and Coherent Breathing: A Randomized Controlled Dosing Study Journal of Psychiatric Practice | Nov. 2019.

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