“Yoga has become increasingly popular in the West, and many new yoga practitioners cite stress-reduction and other mental health concerns as their primary reason for practicing,” Lindsey Hopkins, one of the analysts, said in a statement. “But the empirical research on yoga lags behind its popularity as a first-line approach to mental health.”
That’s why the scientists from the APA conducted a study to determine how the practice could combat symptoms of depression including anxiety, stress, rumination and worry.
To do so, they led several different studies. In the first one, they rounded up 23 male veterans to participate in twice-weekly yoga classes for eight weeks. The subjects gave the exercise an average enjoyment ranking of 9.4 out of 10, and those with elevated depression scores had a significant decrease in depression symptoms.
For the second one, scientists gathered 52 women ages 25 to 45 and asked more than half of them to attend twice-weekly hot yoga classes for eight weeks. The others were placed on a wait list. At the end of the experiment, those who tried yoga saw a reduction in their depression symptoms compared to those in the control group.
And in another, they examined 74 mildly depressed university students, giving them a 15-minute instructional video to follow at home for two months. They found that their symptoms had also subsided significantly.
Researchers noted that the practice isn’t a cure-all but should be a complimentary practice to traditional forms of therapy.
“However,” Hopkins said, “based on empirical evidence, there seems to be a lot of potential.”