Yoga, Breathing Exercises Can Help Relieve Depression

A new study finds that participation in yoga and deep (coherent) breathing classes can help people who suffer from depression.

Researchers discovered participation in yoga and deep (coherent) breathing exercises at least twice weekly plus practice at home could be used as an alternative or supplement to pharmacological treatments for depression.

The findings appear in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is common, recurrent, chronic, and disabling. Due in part to its prevalence, depression is globally responsible for more years lost to disability than any other disease.

Experts report that up to 40 percent of individuals treated with antidepressant medications for MDD do not achieve full remission. This new research explored the use of lyengar yoga — a technique that has an emphasis on detail, precision, and alignment in the performance of posture and breath control.

Individuals with MDD were randomized to the high dose group, three 90-minute classes a week along with home practice, or the low dose group, two 90-minute classes a week, plus home practice.

Both groups had significant decreases in their depressive symptoms and no significant differences in compliance.

Although a greater number of subjects in the high dose group had less depressive symptoms, the researchers believe attending twice weekly classes (plus home practice) may constitute a less burdensome but still effective way to gain the mood benefits from the intervention.

“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,” said corresponding author Chris Streeter, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine.

According to Streeter, compared with mood-altering medications, this intervention has the advantages of avoiding additional drug side effects and drug interactions.

“While most pharmacologic treatment for depression target monoamine systems, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, this intervention targets the parasympathetic and gamma aminobutyric acid system and provides a new avenue for treatment,” she said.

Source: Boston University Medical Center/Science Daily