Yoga is not just a physical exercise, but a spiritual one too. There are 8 different limbs to yoga, and completing the last one is said to lead the person to enlightenment. Of this, the physical exercises and poses that yoga is so well known for is only one part. The spiritual growth has immense impact on our mental well-being, and some poses are known to alleviate conditions like depression and anxiety. This is quite significant, considering that the main treatment for depression right now involves medications that come with side effects. People can get addicted to their medication, and sometimes, they don’t help to curb the symptoms of depression in some people. While psychotherapy has been proven to be helpful, many people don’t feel comfortable opening up to a therapist, and the cost of prolonged therapy sessions makes people think twice about getting help. Though the benefits of yoga for depression have been common knowledge, recent research is proving that yoga is truly beneficial to alleviate symptoms and think from a new perspective.
One study was conducted between researchers from Harvard University and Colombia University in the U.S. The intervention used was coherent breathing, which falls in the pranayama exercises, and Iyengar yoga, which focuses on detail, precision and alignment in posture and breathing. The same size was 32, and the group was randomly split into two where one group took 2 yoga classes a week, and the other group took 3 classes a week for 12 weeks. All the participants were diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), were either not taking any antidepressants, or had been on a stable dose for 3 months or less. The researchers collected data about the depression using a depression inventory that was administer before the study started, and throughout the 12 weeks of the trial. The results showed that while both the groups did show a decline in symptoms, those who took 3 classes a week were more likely to achieve lower depression scores than the other group.
Another study conducted at Brown University and published in the journal of Psychological Medicine had 2 groups of people, one of which took hatha yoga classes, and the other that took health education classes. Hatha yoga is known for its emphasis on mastering the physical body along with mastering mental strength. All the participants in both groups were diagnosed with medical depression and were on a stable dose of antidepressants at the time of the study. The study went on for 6 months, and found that those who took yoga classes had a promising development in their well-being over a longer period of time. 51% of the yoga group reported at least a 50% improvement in their symptoms, while 31% of the health class group reported an improvement in symptoms.
Finally, one pilot study conducted in San Francisco looked at how yoga alone can affect people who are suffering from mild to moderate depression. The sample size was 38, and even though this is relatively quite small, the results of the study can set the stage for more research in the future. The participants in this study were not on antidepressants, and were not being treated for their depression in any way. In the experimental group, a certified yoga teacher taught hatha yoga to the participants, while members of the control group learned about yoga’s history and philosophy in a classroom. The researchers found that the experimental group showed significant improvement in depression symptoms, and had reduced severity after 8 weeks of hatha yoga classes.
Yoga As A Support
While yoga can’t be the only option to treat depression, it can help in improving quality of life, and can buttress the efforts of medication and therapy in those suffering from depression. As a practice, it can significantly improve physical health and reduces conditions like backaches and headaches that can cause discontent and stress in individuals. Moreover, the spiritual growth that comes with yoga can help to calm the mind and reduce stress that leads to conditions like hypertension and heart disease. Overall, yoga is an excellent practice that can benefit anyone who takes it up.