Yoga and deep breathing classes twice a week are effective treatments for depression, new research finds.
They could be used as alternatives to drugs or in addition to them, the researchers suggest.
The type of yoga used in the study is named after B. K. S. Iyengar.
It is a form of Hatha yoga and focuses on being precise in the postures and the control of the breathing.
For the study, 30 people were given yoga classes and told to practice at home as well.
Dr Chris Streeter, the study’s first author, said:
“This study supports the use of a yoga and coherent breathing intervention in major depressive disorder in people who are not on antidepressants and in those who have been on a stable dose of antidepressants and have not achieved a resolution of their symptoms.”
All the individuals in the study were suffering from a major depressive disorder.
Dr Streeter continued:
“While most pharmacologic treatment for depression target monoamine systems, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, this intervention targets the parasympathetic and gamma aminobutyric acid system and provides a new avenue for treatment.”
Unfortunately, the study did not use a control group, so this weakens its conclusions.
However, a recent study I reported on PsyBlog did compare yogic breathing with a control group.
Here are the study’s conclusions:
“Controlled yogic breathing helps alleviate severe depression, new research finds.
People in the study had depression that had not responded to antidepressant medication.
The [breathing] 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.
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
The new study was published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Streeter et al., 2017).