Twice-weekly yoga sessions ease depression symptoms
Yoga has been proven to be effective at reducing the symptoms of depression, researchers claim.
Originating in ancient India, yoga is a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices, most of which involves a series of postures and breathing exercises.
There's evidence that regular yoga is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and back pain, and experts have now found that a multi-week regimen may be an effective complement to traditional therapy for depression.
Dr. Lindsey Hopkins of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center has researched hatha yoga, the branch that emphasises physical exercises, and analysed 23 male veterans who participated in twice-weekly yoga classes for eight weeks.
It was found that participants with elevated depression scores before the yoga programme had a significant reduction in symptoms after the course.
In another study, Dr. Maren Nyer and Maya Nauphal of Massachusetts General Hospital, looked at data from a pilot study of 29 adults that also showed eight weeks of at least twice-weekly Bikram yoga, also known as heated yoga, significantly reduced symptoms of depression and improved other secondary measures including quality of life, optimism and cognitive and physical functioning.
"The more the participants attended yoga classes, the lower their depressive symptoms at the end of the study," said Dr. Nyer.
In light of the results, Dr. Hopkins stated that the concept of yoga as complementary or alternative mental health treatment is so promising that the U.S. military is investigating the creation of its own treatment programmes.
"At this time, we can only recommend yoga as a complementary approach, likely most effective in conjunction with standard approaches delivered by a licensed therapist," she said. "Clearly, yoga is not a cure-all. However, based on empirical evidence, there seems to be a lot of potential."
The study results were presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.
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