Doctors are studying the effects of yoga on mental illness
It is well known that yoga can help with back pain. But yoga also seems to protect against the negative effects of mental illness. Researchers have now found that practicing yoga can also help against depression.
Scientists at Harvard University in Massachusetts and Columbia University in New York found that yoga helps against the negative effects of depression. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine".
Yoga as a replacement for antidepressants?
Previous studies have already shown that yoga increases the production of serotonin. This is a so-called mood stabilizer in the brain, the experts explain. Yoga also helps with breathing, concentration and smooth movement. The results of the current study show why many doctors believe that yoga could even replace antidepressants.
Subjects took part in yoga classes for 12 weeks
Participating in two to three yoga classes a week can help reduce depressive symptoms, the researchers explain. For the examination, 30 subjects carried out a 12-week exercise program. They did yoga and breathing exercises. The participants practiced coherent breathing, in which one only takes five breaths per minute, the doctors explain. They also took part in so-called Iyengar yoga classes. These focus particularly on precision and alignment in posture and breath control.
All participants suffered from depressive disorders
Participants were divided into two groups, one taking three classes a week, the other taking a yoga class twice a week, the researchers say. All participants were previously diagnosed with a depressive disorder. Subjects either did not take antidepressants or used the drug for a period of three months or less. The researchers found that although the symptoms decreased significantly in both groups, the results of participants from three yoga classes a week were better.
Depression is the most common mental disorder in the western world. Compared to the 1970s, the number of depressions has increased about tenfold today, the experts say.
Treatment usually requires therapy and medication
Effective treatment for depression can require expensive and time-consuming therapy, the doctors explain. Medications are often used to control the disease. In the U.S. alone, approximately 188 million prescriptions for antidepressants are prescribed each year. However, up to 50 percent of depression patients treated with antidepressants do not achieve full remission, the scientists add.
Treating depression is currently not effective enough
Current treatments for depression are not effective enough to reduce associated morbidity or mortality, the authors say. The experts further explain that this supports the use of yoga-based interventions as a supplement to the pharmacological treatment of depression. Such an intervention also has the advantage that side effects of medication can be reduced or avoided entirely.
Yoga increases the levels of the amino acid GABA in the body
Studies have already compared the levels of the amino acid GABA in people who practice yoga regularly to people who spend about the same amount of time walking. This amino acid is crucial for a well-functioning brain and the central nervous system, say the doctors. When people took yoga classes, the levels of GABA were significantly increased. Low levels of GABA have been linked to the development of depression and anxiety, the researchers explain.
Sitting upright can help with depression
An independent study conducted by the University of Auckland at New Zealand in January also found that sitting in a straight and upright position can help people feel less depressed. (as)