Because medication and therapy don’t always benefit everyone with depression, mental health experts are always hunting for alternative treatments — and one of the most popular is yoga.
A number of recent studies have pointed to yoga’s positive impact on clinical depression. A new study published in the journal Psychological Medicine agrees with those findings, but with a caveat: it may take some time for yoga’s benefits to appear.
A team from Butler Hospital in Rhode Island split about 100 participants with depressive symptoms into two groups: for 10 weeks, about half of them took weekly yoga classes, while the other half took a healthy living workshop.
The type of yoga used in the study was hatha yoga, a broad term that encompasses the physical poses of yoga and can be used to describe most of the common forms of yoga practiced today.
Initially, it didn’t appear that yoga had any particular impact on the participants, who continued to take their antidepressant medication during the study.
“We did not see statistically significant differences between hatha yoga and a control group at 10 weeks,” said the study’s leader Dr Lisa Uebelacker in a statement. “However, when we examined outcomes over a period of time — including the three and six months after yoga classes ended — we found yoga was superior to health education in alleviating depression symptoms.”
Dr Uebelacker said her study is the biggest investigation into yoga’s effects on depression that’s been conducted.