Yoga, Breathing Exercise Can Ease Depression and Anxiety Now And In Months Ahead

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A variety of scientific studies have supported yoga practice as a means to ease depression and anxiety. Now, a new study out of Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) provides evidence that yoga and breathing exercises can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety both in the short and long run.

Investigators discovered yoga provides benefits with each session as well as cumulative longer-term benefits extending over three months. The findings suggest yoga can be a helpful complementary treatment for clinical depression or major depressive disorder.

The research appears in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice.

In the study, a group of 30 clinically depressed patients were randomly divided into two groups. Both groups engaged in Iyengar yoga and coherent breathing, with the only difference being the number of instructional and home sessions in which each group participated.

Over three months, the high-dose group (HDG) spent 123 hours in sessions while the low-dose group (LDG) spent 87 hours. Results showed that within a month, both groups’ sleep quality significantly improved.

Tranquility, positivity, physical exhaustion and symptoms of anxiety and depression also significantly improved in both groups, as measured by several validated clinical scales.

“Think of it this way,” said corresponding author Chris Streeter, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine. “We give medications in different doses in order to enact their effects on the body to varying degrees. Here, we explored the same concept, but used yoga. We call that a dosing study. Past yoga and depression studies have not really delved deeply into this.”

“Providing evidence-based data is helpful in getting more individuals to try yoga as a strategy for improving their health and well-being. These data are crucial for accompanying investigations of underlying neurobiology that will help elucidate ‘how’ yoga works,” said study collaborator and co-author Marisa M. Silveri, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at McLean Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Depression, a condition that affects one of every seven adults in the U.S. at some point in their lives, is treated with a variety of modalities, including counseling (especially cognitive-behavioral therapy) and medication.

Research has shown combining therapy and medication has greater success than either treatment alone. Although studies with more participants would be helpful in further investigating its benefits, this small study indicates adding yoga to the prescription may be helpful.

Source: Boston University School of Medicine

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