Yoga is effective for chronic, treatment-resistant depression


Yoga can complement traditional therapies and help in reducing symptoms of depression, claims researchers at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Centre in the United States.

According to Lindsey Hopkins from the San Francisco Medical Centre, yoga is highly popular in the West, and majority of the new yoga practitioners have confirmed stress-reduction and other mental health concerns as the primary reason for practicing yoga.

In the study, presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington DC, the team of researchers explored the antidepressant effects of ‘Hatha Yoga’ and ‘Bikram Yoga’, in a series of experiments.

For this, 23 males participated in the ‘Hatha Yoga’ classes twice a week for eight weeks, while 52 women participated in ‘Bikram Yoga’ classes for eight weeks. Both the methods led to considerable reduction in depression symptoms and improved quality of life, optimism, cognitive and physical functioning.

With increased participation in yoga classes, the more the participants noticed the lowering of their depressive symptoms, the study showed, said Maren Nyer, PhD from Massachusetts General Hospital.

Further, the researchers also considered the potential of yoga to address chronic and/or treatment-resistant depression in two separate studies. The first study involved 12 patients, who had experienced depression for at least 11 years, who participated in nine weekly yoga sessions of nearly 2.5 hours each.

The second study comprised of 74 mildly depressed patients (university students), involving comparison of yoga with a relaxation technique. Results showed that yoga significantly lowered depression, anxiety and stress, the researchers said.

According to Nina Vollbehr, Centre for Integrative Psychiatry in Netherlands, studies suggest that yoga-based interventions have a promise for depressed mood and that they are feasible for patients with chronic, treatment-resistant depression.

However, Hopkins says that research on yoga as a treatment for depression is still in preliminary stages. Therefore, currently, yoga can be recommended as a complementary approach, which could be very effective in conjunction with standard approaches by a licensed therapist.

Although yoga cannot be a ‘cure-all’, it does have a lot of potential, Hopkins concluded.