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Yoga seems to ease depressive symptoms in people with other mental health issues, with the more weekly sessions completed, the greater the effects, according to researchers.
Depressive symptoms often go hand in hand with other mental health issues, such as generalised anxiety and psychotic disorders, noted the researchers in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
“This review found evidence of a positive effect of yoga beyond usual care for reducing depressive symptoms”
They also highlighted that physical activity was now widely recommended to help ease the symptoms of depression.
As a result, they said they wanted to know if yoga might be helpful for people with a range of mental health issues and if it might have other benefits, such as weight loss and better sleep.
The study authors searched for trials that compared yoga with usual treatment, no current treatment, or self-help including books, health information, and the support of friends and family.
They found 19 relevant international clinical trials, involving 1,080 adults with a range of mental health issues.
The conditions in the trials included depression, generalised anxiety, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, stress and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, and substance misuse.
Yoga practice involved a mixture of movement, breathing exercises, and mindfulness, but with the movement component comprising more than half of each session, said the study authors.
Yoga types included hatha, vinyasa, SVYASA, kundalini and kripalu, with each weekly session lasting between 20 and 90 minutes over a period of around 2.5 months, on average.
Pooled data from 13 of the 19 trials showed that yoga eased depressive symptoms, when compared with usual, no, or self-help treatment.
The effects were most noticeable for depression and schizophrenia, and to some extent, for alcohol misuse, said the researchers.
“Yoga may provide an additional or alternative strategy to engage people experiencing depression in meaningful physical activity”
Further analysis revealed that the higher the number of weekly yoga sessions completed, the greater was the effect on easing depressive symptoms.
The study authors came from the University of Manchester and King’s College London, as well as Australia and Brazil.
The researchers concluded that yoga was more effective than usual care, with a clear dose-response effect, and that it may be especially helpful for those who normally cannot or do not exercise.
They stated: “This review found evidence of a positive effect of yoga beyond usual care for reducing depressive symptoms in people with a range of mental disorders.
“Consideration of yoga as an evidence-based exercise modality alongside conventional forms of exercise is warranted, given the positive results of this review,” they said.
“Yoga may provide an additional or alternative strategy to engage people experiencing depression in meaningful physical activity,” they added.
The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Health Education England.