Yoga is an effective way to help treat depression, multiple studies suggest.
The ancient practice helps to reduce the symptoms.
It can even help with treatment-resistant depression: the most serious type.
Multiple studies have found that various different forms of yoga can be beneficial, including hatha yoga and Bikram yoga.
Many of these studies were recently discussed at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington, DC..
Dr Lindsey Hopkins, who chaired a session on yoga at the convention, said:
“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.
But the empirical research on yoga lags behind its popularity as a first-line approach to mental health.”
Dr Hopkins has looked at the effect of hatha yoga on depression.
Hatha yoga focuses on physical exercises, breathing and meditation.
Another study of Bikram yoga — also known as heated or hot yoga — also found it reduced the symptoms of depression.
Hot yoga is so-called as it is done in a room heated to around 100°F (almost 40°C).
Bikram yoga was also linked to improvements in optimism, physical functioning and cognitive abilities.
Dr Maren Nyer, an author of this study, explained they found a dose-response effect:
“The more the participants attended yoga classes, the lower their depressive symptoms at the end of the study.”
Studies have even suggested yoga can help with ‘treatment-resistant’ depression.
Dr Nina Vollbehr, author of one, 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.”
Dr Hopkins concluded:
“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 said. “Clearly, yoga is not a cure-all. However, based on empirical evidence, there seems to be a lot of potential.”
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 studies were presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.