Yoga for the Blues
Study finds that yoga classes accompanied by home practice lead to a significant reduction in symptoms of depression.
Depression is a mental health condition that affects the brain and often begins in early adulthood. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, more than 15 million Americans were identified as suffering from depression in 2016. Although anyone at any age may suffer from depression, it’s more common in women.
Depression is recognized as a distinct condition and treatments range from drugs to psychotherapy, to lifestyle choices. Most antidepressant drugs work to change the chemical reactions occurring in the brain. While the drugs each work in a slightly different way, they are each intended to balance neurotransmitters. Many people are successfully treated with these drugs.
Unfortunately, however, not all drugs work. Some individuals experience side effects, while others simply don’t want to take drugs, and some don’t find any relief from their symptoms. Doctors and researchers have worked for years to find alternative ways to treat depression. Diet, exercise, counseling, and supplements are some of the alternatives being explored. Another alternative is yoga.
In a recent study reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, individuals who participated in yoga classes at least twice a week and practiced additionally at home, experienced a decrease in their symptoms. Specifically, this study used lyengar yoga which is a practice that works to improve strength, mobility and balance. Particular attention is given to breath control known as ”pranayama”. The poses or “asanas” used during practice all work to accomplish the lyengar goals.
Participants in the study were broken into two groups. One group participated in 90-minute yoga classes three times a week, while the other group practiced 90 minutes twice a week. Both groups were advised to additionally practice at home. Each group contained clients who were taking prescription antidepressants as well as those who did not. At the end of the study, both groups reported an overall decrease in symptoms. This held true for those who were on antidepressants as well as those who were not.
While drug therapy may be a viable option for some, a yoga alternative seems to offer substantial relief to individuals suffering from depression without to risk of side effects or harmful drug interactions. The good news for people suffering from depression is that yoga offers them an additional choice about treatment.
Chris C. Streeter, Patricia L. Gerbarg, Theodore H. Whitfield, Liz Owen, Jennifer Johnston, Marisa M. Silveri, Marysia Gensler, Carol L. Faulkner, Cathy Mann, Mary Wixted, Anne Marie Hernon, Maren B. Nyer, E. Richard P. Brown, John E. Jensen. Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder with Iyengar Yoga and Coherent Breathing: A Randomized Controlled Dosing Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2017; DOI: 10.1089/acm.2016.0140