Since the 70s, meditation and other methods for stress reduction have been studied as potential therapy for depression and anxiousness.
One of these practices, i.e. yoga, has become quite popular in the last couple of decades. According to a survey estimates, around 7.5 percent of adults in the US have tried yoga at least once and almost 4 percent have practiced it in the past year.
Yoga classes can be gentle and accommodating, but also more demanding and challenging. The type of yoga one chooses depends on their physical capacity and personal preferences.
Hatha yoga is the most popular type of yoga in the US and it’s a combination of three elements, that is, asanas or physical poses, controlled breathing exercises in combination with the poses, and a period of relaxation or meditation.
This new study has concluded that people who did yoga with breathing exercises experienced better mental health after a period of three months.
Could Yoga Be the Key to Better Mental Health?
Even though it wasn’t developed for depression treatment, research has found that in some individuals, yoga is pretty good at it.
This study, done by a team of researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine, New York Medical College, and Harvard and Columbia Universities discovered that yoga helped better the participants’ mental health.
For the purposes of the study, which was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, the participants were divided into 2 groups.
First was the high-dose group who did 90 minute yoga with coherent breathing, three times per week, and did 4, 30-minut yoga sessions at home, every week.
The other group took 2 yoga classes and 3 at-home sessions. These yoga sessions lasted for 12 weeks each.
In order to test the mental health of the participants, they were given questionnaires for anxiety, depression, positive/negative feelings, and sleep quality measurements.
They filled them out at the start of the program and every 4 weeks after.
What Did the End Results Show?
Most of the measures got better in both groups, including tranquility, positivity, anxiety and depression symptoms, sleep quality, and physical tiredness.
However, they were more noticeable in the first group that did more yoga.
The limitation to this study is the lack of control group. This being said, the experts couldn’t make comparisons between yoga and participants who don’t do it or who do some other type of exercise.
Yoga Isn’t just for the Body, but also for the Brain
The advantages of yoga go beyond the physical health. When combined with breathing exercises, it seems to unlock the brain networks like meditation does.
A lot of research has concluded that yoga influences our response to stress, our reaction to fear, and silences the self-referential sections of the brain that seem to be quite active in individuals struggling with depression and anxiety.
Could Yoga Be Prescribed for Better Mental Health?
Even though this study, and similar like it, are crucial for learning more about the connection between yoga and our mental health, more work is necessary before it could be considered a viable method for treatment of mental health issues.
Until now, yoga seems to be a viable strategy to try and enhance our overall health and well-being. After all, we don’t have anything to lose, but on the contrary, we have a lot to gain.