New Study Shows Yoga Offers Cumulative Benefits for Depression
Compelling research continues to mount showing the positive effects of yoga on depression. A randomized controlled study suggests that weekly hatha yoga classes could improve depression symptoms by over 50% in people suffering from major depression when used in addition to antidepressant medication.
Depression is debilitating and widespread; each year, over 15 million adults in America suffer from depression. The current treatment approach offered is a combination of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. But what can we do if antidepressant medication isn’t enough and depressive symptoms persist? This is precisely the question that Brown University research psychologist Lisa Uebelacker, PhD and colleagues wanted to answer.
“The purpose of this study was to examine whether hatha yoga is effective for treating depression when used in addition to antidepressant medication,” stated Uebelacker. “We found that yoga did indeed have an impact on depression symptoms.”
Yoga as Adjunct Treatment with Antidepressants
Their research, “Adjunctive yoga v. health education for persistent major depression: a randomized controlled trial,” was recently published in Psychological Medicine. The study included 122 individuals with elevated depression symptoms who were using antidepressant medication. Approximately half were randomly assigned to the attention-control group, healthy living workshop education classes, and the other half were assigned to weekly hatha yoga classes. This intervention period lasted for 10 weeks and participants were blindly rated at 3 and 6 month follow-up sessions.
Benefits of Yoga May Accumulate Over Time
After 6 months, over half of the participants in the weekly yoga classes group experienced a minimum 50% reduction in their depressive symptoms. They also reported both improved social functioning and overall health.
One of the most fascinating results from the study was that these positive effects did not occur until six months after starting the yoga practice. There was no difference in depression symptoms between groups at the end of the 10 week intervention period, but the yoga participants showed fewer depression symptoms over the entire 3-6 month follow-up period. Researchers concluded that the benefits of yoga appear to be cumulative.