Controlled yogic breathing helps alleviate severe depression, new research finds.
People in the study had depression that had not responded to antidepressant medication.
Dr Anup Sharma, the lead author of this study, said:
“With such a large portion of patients who do not fully respond to antidepressants, it’s important we find new avenues that work best for each person to beat their depression.
Here, we have a promising, lower-cost therapy that could potentially serve as an effective, non-drug approach for patients battling this disease.”
The study compared the effects of learning the breathing technique over two months with a control group.
The results showed that those in the yoga group had lower depression and anxiety.
The control group showed no improvement.
Yoga breathing technique
The breathing technique was practised in groups and at home.
The technique involves a series of rhythmic breathing exercises designed to put people in a calm and meditative state.
Slow and calm breaths are alternated with fast and stimulating breaths.
The video below gives you an idea of what is involved in “Sudarshan Kriya yoga”, the breathing technique used in the study.
Along with learning this breathing technique, people practised yoga postures, sitting meditation and received stress education.
Dr Sharma said:
“Sudarshan Kriya yoga gives people an active method to experience a deep meditative state that’s easy to learn and incorporate in diverse settings.”
Sudarshan Kriya yoga has already been linked to benefits in milder forms of depression.
These studies suggest that yoga reduces levels of stress hormones in the central nervous system.
Dr Sharma said:
“The next step in this research is to conduct a larger study evaluating how this intervention impacts brain structure and function in patients who have major depression.”
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Sharma et al., 2106).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Yoga image from Shutterstock