The Science Is In, And Yes — Yoga Helps With Depression

Photo by Christine Hewitt

We've long suspected that yoga has a positive impact on mental health, and we know it works miracles on our physical health. Recent research even found that yoga has the ability to alter our DNA.

But a series of new studies on yoga and mental health saw one conclusion across the board: Practicing yoga regularly reduces symptoms of depression. The first study, conducted out of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, looked at the effects hatha on 23 male veterans who practiced twice per week for eight weeks. Not only did the veterans report enjoying the classes, but they saw reduced depression symptoms after two months of yoga.

Another study out of Alliant University in San Francisco that looked at the effects of Bikram yoga on a group of women between the ages of 25 and 45 found similar results: When these women practiced twice per week for two months, their depression symptoms decreased.

Two more studies presented in the same meeting—one on mildly depressed university students, the other on chronically depressed people who had been resistant to depression—found the same thing: When it comes to mental illness, yoga heals.

"At this time, we can only recommend yoga as a complementary approach, likely most effective in conjunction with standard approaches delivered by a licensed therapist," said Lindsey Hopkins, PhD, who chaired the research presentation. "Clearly, yoga is not a cure-all. However, based on empirical evidence, there seems to be a lot of potential."

Want more yoga news? Find out how yoga changes the structure of your brain.

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