According to the World Health Organization, clinical depression and Major Depressive Disorders impacts more than 264 million people globally, making it a leading cause for disability in the world. Often stigmatized, the numbers are harrowing with one in every seven adults in the US experiencing depression at least once in their lifetime. With antidepressants and modern medicine as a key treatment for the symptoms of depression, the small field of research studying the positive effects of yoga on mental health are shining light on a highly prescribed anecdote.
Yoga, an ancient practice, has revealed beneficial relief from anxiety and depression, but a more recent study by the Boston University Medical School (BUSM) takes that notion one step further. According to their 2019 study, just one yoga session can improve depression, however the benefits are cumulative over time.
Over the course of a three-month study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, BUSM conducted research that supports breathing exercises and yoga practice can improve the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorders (MDD), with just one session making a positive difference.
“Think of it this way: 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,” says the paper’s author, Chris Streeter, a MED associate professor of psychiatry.
The study took 32 patients suffering from clinical depression and separated them into two groups, a high dosage group and a low dosage group. The only difference between each group was that the high dosage group did more yoga, while the low dosage group did less. Over the three months, the High Dosage Group performed 123 hours of yoga, while the Low Dosage Group practiced 87 hours of yoga.
Results found that within the first month, all participants experienced better sleep, more tranquility, positivity, higher energy levels and less symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
While this study is one of just a few on the topic, more data speculating the benefits of yoga on mental health are a gateway to holistic medicinal practices for alleviating the symptoms of clinical depression. Currently, most symptoms of depression or anxiety are alleviated using medicine and drugs, however studies like this reveal that yoga should also be prescribed as a complementary alternative medicine.