If you are suffering from depression, yoga can complement traditional therapies and help reduce the symptoms of the mental disorder, researchers claim.
“Yoga has become increasingly popular in the West, and many new yoga practitioners cite stress-reduction and other mental health concerns as their primary reason for practicing,” said Lindsey Hopkins from the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Centre in the US.
In the study, presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington DC, the team of researchers explored the acceptability and antidepressant effects of “Hatha Yoga” and “Bikram Yoga” — also known as heated yoga — in a series of experiments.
While 23 males participated in the twice-weekly “Hatha Yoga” classes for eight weeks, 52 women participated in the “Bikram Yoga” classes for eight weeks.
Both the methods led to a significant reduction in depression symptoms as well as improved quality of life, optimism, and cognitive and physical functioning.
“The more the participants attended yoga classes, the lower their depressive symptoms at the end of the study showed,” said Maren Nyer, PhD from the Massachusetts General Hospital.
Further, the researchers also looked at the potential of yoga to address chronic and/or treatment-resistant depression in two studies.
The first study involved 12 patients, who had experienced depression for an average of 11 years, participated in nine weekly yoga sessions of approximately 2.5 hours each.
The second study involved 74 mildly depressed university students, and compared yoga with a relaxation technique.
The results showed that yoga significantly lowered scores for depression, anxiety and stress, the researchers said.
“These studies suggest that yoga-based interventions have promise for depressed mood and that they are feasible for patients with chronic, treatment-resistant depression,” said Nina Vollbehr, from the Centre for Integrative Psychiatry in the Netherlands.
However, the research on yoga as a treatment for depression is still preliminary, Hopkins noted.
“At this time, we can only recommend yoga as a complementary approach, likely most effective in conjunction with standard approaches delivered by a licensed therapist,” she added.
“Clearly, yoga is not a cure-all. However, based on empirical evidence, there seems to be a lot of potential,” Hopkins said.