Finally, the scientific world is coming out with some hard research that yoga is magic (a fact us yogis have all known for a long time) and can seriously help with depression.
25 million Americans suffer from depression in some form and a great number of them are on medication at a cost of over $50 billion a year! (Just think how much yoga gear I could buy with that!) Now, don’t get me wrong I am not against anti-depressants, I need them and have taken them for years and know they have a positive impact on the stages my depression can get to, the highs and the lows. But for me and for many other people, they are not the only answer. I have found when I am struggling that medication and therapy are invaluable. But it was not until I found yoga and meditation that I felt like I had woken up. I would never never give up my meds but the wonderful addition of yoga and meditation to my life has affected my quality of life in a significant way.
Anyhoo, a study was recently done with twenty-four sufferers of depression ranging from moderate to severe. Twelve of them continued with their medication only therapy and twelve of them continued with medication and the addition of yoga classes for twelve weeks. Two of the participants dropped out early on (this is normal attrition in a study).
However, for those that carried on these were the results:
At the end of the 12-week yoga program, the 10 participants who attended yoga classes reported significantly less acute symptoms of depression, and lower levels of perceived stress than at study onset. Depressive symptoms in the yoga group were significantly lower than symptoms reported by control participants, who demonstrated little change in either dimension.
I think those results are worth considering. Amy Weintraub in her book Yoga for Depression makes the link between the benefits of yoga for depression.
“Let’s tap into the scientifically proven link between yoga and emotional wellbeing as well as the beauty of this ancient art develops inner peace.”
There is a link between specific poses, breathing techniques which have been found to decrease anxiety, alleviate depression and increase that sense of wellbeing.
I know from my own experience, when I was in a really bad place and my therapist encouraged me to go to yoga, I thought she was a little nuts herself and was very intimidated by the prospect of getting on my mat. But I was blessed in finding a studio that was warm, welcoming and most importantly, very nonjudgmental. I did not know what was happening or how it was happening but I did know that every time I got off my mat I felt a little more grounded, more at peace with myself and certainly less anxious. And here I am now, a newbie Yoga Teacher. What a difference a year makes!
Chu, IH, Wu, WL, Lin, IM, Chang, YK, Lin YJ & Yang, PC (2016). Effects of yoga on heart rate variability and depressive symptoms in women: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Amy WeintraubYoga for Depression 2004