Over 30 million Americans suffer from depression, making it the most common, chronic, and disabling disease in the US. Around 40 percent of individuals are given antidepressants to treat their depression, but most fail to recover from the disorder.
New research shows that yoga can be used as an effective alternative for current drug-based interventions used for treating depression.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, had adult participants with depression attend 90-minute Iyengar yoga classes twice a week. Iyengar yoga focuses on body alignment, posture, precision of movements, and controlled breathing.
After attending the yoga sessions for 3 months, participants showed significant decreases in their depressive symptoms and anxiety, and significant increases in mood. The researchers believe that attending even more sessions, or spending more time practicing yoga at home can improve symptoms even more.
Dr. Chris Streeter, the studies principal investigator and a medical doctor and professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Boston Medical Center explains,
“This study supports the use of a 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.”
Streeter believes that yoga can potentially be used as an alternative to current supplement or pharmacologic treatments for depression. More specifically, he explains, “while most pharmacologic treatment for depression target monoamine systems, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, this [yoga] intervention targets the parasympathetic and gamma aminobutyric acid system and provides a new avenue for treatment.”