Yoga reduces depression symptoms study shows

07 August 2017

Yoga can to reduce the symptoms of depression, psychologists meeting in the US were told.

Several studies focused on the antidepressant effects of yoga were presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

While the research is preliminary, yoga as a treatment for depression did have potential, according to researcher Lindsey Hopkins, PhD, of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who chaired the session.

A study led by Ms Hopkins, examined the effects of hatha yoga, a type of yoga that emphasised physical movement and breathing exercises.

Twenty-three male veterans participated for eight weeks in hatha yoga classes, twice a week. By the end of the programme, veterans with elevated depression scores before the yoga program experienced significant reduction in depression symptoms.

Further, a pilot study conducted by researchers at the Center for Integrative Psychiatry in the Netherlands tracked patients with chronic depression over 11 years.

The study required the participants to take weekly 2.5 hour classes for nine weeks combined with their usual care - generally a combination of therapy and antidepressants.

The researchers found scores of depression and anxiety reduced at the end of the treatment period as against when they had started the yoga.

''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 Hopkins, IANS reported.

''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, IANS reported.

However, the research on yoga as a treatment for depression is still preliminary, according to Hopkins.  ''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.

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