Mood boosting yoga.

Yoga has been subject to multiple scientific studies over the past 40 years, but recent research provides promising evidence that it could complement traditional treatment for depression.

Traditional treatments include medication or psychotherapy, but tests on American veterans found that doing yoga twice weekly for 8 weeks significantly reduced their levels of depression, with the men highly enjoying the sessions.

There is not enough evidence to recommend specific styles of yoga for depression, so it is more important to choose a style that fits one’s body and individual preferences. Regularity and consistency are important to reap benefits, while reducing risk of injury, but helpful styles have included hatha yoga, which includes movement and poses; an integrated approach, which combines yoga breathing, movement and poses, and meditative states; and Iyengar yoga, a form of hatha yoga that emphasizes precise body alignment and breathing.

In research on people with mild depression, yet to be treated traditionally, it was also found that yoga could help. In a test study, the group that did yoga had significantly less depression at the end of eight weeks. The 90-minute yoga class in the study combined yoga breathing, poses, and deep relaxation. The first section was 20 minutes of yoga breathing exercises, including nadi shodhana (alternate nostril) breath, ujjayi (victorious) breath, and brahmari (bee) breath. Poses focused on backbend or “chest-opening” poses, including cobra pose, bow pose, fish pose, bridge pose, camel pose, and child’s pose. The last pose of the class was deep relaxation in corpse pose for 15 minutes.

Studies will continue, but people with depression may want to consider yoga as an extra option.

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