Researchers have found that participating in yoga and deep breathing sessions twice a week, along with regular practice at home, could effectively reduce the symptoms of depression, even among people being treated with antidepressant medications.
The study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, supports yoga-based interventions as an alternative therapy or as a supplement to pharmacologic treatments for depression. Major depressive disorder, or MDD, is one of the most common, recurrent, chronic and disabling health conditions. The condition is so prevalent that globally, depression alone is responsible for more years lost to disability than any other disease. In fact, up to 40 per cent of MDD patients on antidepressant medications fail to achieve full remission.
The researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine in the US used lyengar yoga to study the effectiveness of practising yoga in treating depression. lyengar yoga emphasises on detail, precision and alignment in the performance of posture and breath control.
As part of research, individuals with MDD were randomised into two groups—a high dose group that had three 90-minute classes a week along with home practice, and a low dose group with two 90-minute classes a week, plus home practice. Both groups showed significant decline in their depressive symptoms. Although more people in the high dose group showed less depressive symptoms, the researchers said that attending weekly classes twice, along with home practice, could be less exhaustive, but still effective way in terms of mood-lifting benefits from the intervention.
“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,” said Chris Streeter, associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine in the US, in a media release.
Streeter also emphasised on how turning to yoga instead of high dose medications can help in avoiding additional side-effects of mood altering drugs, usually prescribed as part of treatment for depression. “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 said.