Why mindfulness-based yoga can reduce depression in women

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Yoga-depression

Depression is a common mental health issue. It is estimated that about 25% of women and 12% of men are affected by the disorder in their lifetimes.

Usually, people use psychotherapy and antidepressants to treat depression. However, a recent study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine showed that doing mindfulness-based yoga can also fight against depression.

Forty women (20 – 64 years old) with depression symptoms took part in the study. One group received a mindfulness-based yoga intervention, whereas the other group received a control treatment (e.g., walking).

The mindfulness-based yoga included asana (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), and relaxation (meditation). The whole program was delivered via a yoga DVD and telephone sessions. Participants completed 60-75 min of the DVD twice a week and a 15-min telephone session once a week.

The walking program included twice-weekly practice with a 65-min walking DVD and 8 telephone sessions. Based on the DVD instruction, participants walked forwards and backwards.

Both programs lasted 12 weeks and were done at home. Participants took two assessments, one was after the intervention and the other one month after the intervention.

In addition, all participants completed questionnaires to measure their depression symptoms and ruminative thoughts (i.e. thinking something too deeply) before and after the intervention.

Researchers found that people in both programs significantly reduced their depressive symptoms after the intervention. However, the yoga program reduced rumination more than the walking program.

Researchers suggest that mindfulness-based yoga can manage ruminative thoughts among women. Depressed people with ruminative thoughts often compulsively focus on their symptoms and hence may become more depressed.

During yoga, mindfulness can reduce rumination because it makes participants pay attention to other things, such as breathing, physical activity of the poses, etc. In addition, the yoga telephone sessions can reduce stress. These together may help participants develop positive feelings about self.

In the future, researchers will test the role of mindfulness-based yoga in depression treatment in a larger sample and longer interventions.


Citation: Schuver KJ, Lewis BA. (2016). Mindfulness-based yoga intervention for women with depression. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 26: 85-91. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2016.03.003
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