A systematic review and meta-analysis of existing research shows that people with mental health issues showing symptoms of depression, have shown improvement by undergoing weekly sessions of yoga.

“This is a great result to now encourage people who might be thinking about trying yoga that there’s some scientific evidence that it can be effective for helping reduce depressive symptoms,” said Jacinta Brinsley, exercise physiologist and study author, a doctoral candidate at the University of South Australia.

Other mental health conditions usually go hand in hand with depression. Past records show 72% of people diagnosed with lifetime anxiety and 20 to 40% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia for example, tend to suffer from depression.

“Exercise has always been a great strategy for people struggling with these feelings as it boosts both mood and health. But as gyms and exercise classes of all kinds are now closed,” Brinsley said, “people are looking for alternatives, and this is where yoga can help.”

The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a new analysis on Monday which was conducted in the United States, Japan, India, China, Sweden and Germany, which reviewed 19 randomized controlled clinical trials which were considered new and much improved research methods.

In the studies, all participants had been diagnosed with the following habits – alcohol dependence, depressive and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia or PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome).

Participants in the study took part in an average of one to two weekly yoga sessions, which involved physical movement for half the sessions with each session lasting around 20 and 90 minutes long.

“This is any kind of yoga where asana — postures and movement — are the main focus,” Brinsley said. “Most yoga classes that are delivered in gyms or studios today in Western society would fit this criteria. The most common styles would be: Vinyasa, Iyengar, Ashtanga and Power Yoga.”

In the clinical trials, the yoga sessions were conducted for an average period of two and a half months.

Results revealed the depressive symptoms were eased moderately as result from consistent yoga compared with self-help treatment across the mental health spectrum or no treatment at all. It was also seen that some conditions benefited more from the yoga sessions.

People diagnosed with depressive disorders showed moderate reduction in depressive symptoms, and a significant reduction in symptoms could be noted for participants with schizophrenia. Slight effect was seen for those with alcohol addiction. Those who suffered PTSD however, showed no improvement at all after the two and a half months of yoga sessions.

According to the analysis, researchers found participants displayed lessened symptoms of depression when they attended more yoga sessions.

Laurie Hyland Robertson, the editor in chief of Yoga Therapy Today (a journal published by the International Association of Yoga Therapists) said “The study’s findings suggest that the more yoga you do, the better the effect. Although we don’t know the exact ‘dose’ you need, those who did more yoga sessions per week had greater reductions in depressive symptoms.”

Robertson, who was not involved with the study, concluded saying “the importance of working with a professional who can tailor yoga practices to the individual, adapting the care plan as needed,”  because yoga was more effective as for certain mental disorders like schizophrenia and anxiety compared to other conditions like PTSD.

“The study’s findings suggest that the more yoga you do, the better the effect. Although we don’t know the exact ‘dose’ you need, those who did more yoga sessions per week had greater reductions in depressive symptoms,” said Laurie Hyland Robertson, the editor in chief of Yoga Therapy Today, which is published by the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

Why yoga?

It’s a well-known fact that yoga is a physical exercise that improves a person’s well-being, balance and awareness. It is known to help people manage their mental health and is recommended to ease depression.

The exercises practiced in yoga are believed by scientists to increases blood circulation, especially to important areas in the brain like the amygdala and hippocampus, both playing vital roles in regulating mood, motivation and response to stressful situations.

“We know that exercise is effective for improving mental health through a number of mechanisms, one of which is endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormone”, Brinsely said.

Yoga also calls for spiritual discipline which connects the mind, body and spirit as one by incorporating specific postures, breathing, and mindfulness through meditation.

Many reviews have been conducted on yoga, and the general consensus by researchers is that to be effective in easing depression, yoga though shown to help, must be practiced on a continuous basis.

To conclude, there are medications and other tradition therapies to combat depression. Yoga is definitely an option which can complement existing treatment methods to help people suffering from depression.

By Aaron
19th May 19:36

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