Yoga as a treatment for depression

A combination of dynamic exercise, stretching, and meditation can help reduce stress, anxiety, lift your spirits, and boost your self-confidence. Many go into practice because it’s trendy and celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson do it, but not everyone can admit they’re actually looking for relief from their symptoms of depression.

“Yoga is becoming more and more popular in the West. People began to recognize that the main reason for the practice is mental health problems. Empirical research on yoga has shown that the practice is truly a first-class approach to improving mental health,” said Dr. Lindsey Hopkins of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco.

A Hopkins study presented at the American Psychological Association conference found that older men who practiced yoga twice a week for eight weeks had fewer symptoms of depression.

Aliant University in San Francisco also presented a study that showed that women aged 25 to 45 who practiced bikram yoga twice a week significantly reduced their symptoms of depression compared to those who only considered going into the practice.

Massachusetts hospital doctors after a series of tests on 29 yoga practitioners found that Bikram yoga improves quality of life, increases optimism, mental function and physical abilities.

A study by Dr. Nina Vollber from the Center for Integrative Psychiatry in the Netherlands found that yoga can be used to treat depression when other treatments fail. Scientists followed 12 people who had depression for 11 years, taking part in a two-hour yoga class once a week for nine weeks. Patients had reduced rates of depression, anxiety, and stress. After 4 months, patients completely got rid of depression.

Another study, also led by Dr. Fallber, found that 74 university students who experienced depression eventually chose yoga over regular relaxation classes. The participants were divided into two groups and did 30 minutes of yoga or relaxation, after which they were asked to do the same exercises at home for eight days using a 15-minute video. Immediately thereafter, both groups showed a reduction in symptoms, but two months later, only the yoga group was able to completely overcome the depression.

“These studies prove that yoga-based mental health interventions are appropriate for patients with chronic depression. At this time, we can only recommend yoga as a complementary approach that is likely to be effective when combined with standard approaches provided by a licensed therapist. More evidence is needed to show that yoga may be the only treatment for depression,” says Dr. Fallber.

Experts believe that based on empirical evidence, yoga has great potential to someday become a treatment in its own right.

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