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Yoga May Help Reduce Depression

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A study claims that participation in yoga and deep breathing classes twice a week along with home practice may effectively reduce the symptoms of depression. The findings of the study provide support for the use of yoga-based interventions as an alternative or supplement to pharmacologic treatments for depression. This study supports the use of 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.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is common, recurrent, chronic and disabling. Due in part to its prevalence, depression is globally responsible for more years lost to disability than any other disease. Up to 50% of individuals treated with antidepressant medications for MDD do not achieve full remission. The study used Iyengar yoga that has an emphasis on detail, precision and alignment in the performance of posture and breathe control.

Individuals with MDD were randomized to the high dose group, three 90-minute classes a week along with home practice, or the low-dose group, two 90-minute classes a week, plus home practice. Both groups had significant decreases in their depressive symptoms and no significant differences in compliance. Although a greater number of subjects in the high dose group had less depressive symptoms, the researchers believe attending twice weekly classes (plus home practice) may constitute a less burdensome but still effective way to gain the mood benefits from the intervention.

Compared with mood altering medications, yoga has the advantages of avoiding additional drug side effects and drug interactions. 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.


Streeter C.C., et al., 2017, “Treatment of major depressive disorder with Iyengar yoga and coherent breathing: A randomized controlled dosing study,” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine; 23(3): 201-207. [Web Reference]

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