Heated yoga shows promise in reducing depression symptoms

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In a recent clinical trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), researchers discovered that heated yoga sessions had a significant positive impact on adults with moderate-to-severe depression.

The results of this study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, suggest that heated yoga could be a valuable treatment option for individuals dealing with depression.

The Study Details

The eight-week trial involved 80 participants who were randomly assigned to one of two groups.

The first group received 90-minute sessions of Bikram yoga in a room heated to 105°F, while the second group was placed on a waitlist.

Participants on the waitlist were later given the opportunity to complete the yoga intervention. The analysis included 33 participants from the yoga group and 32 from the waitlist group.

The intervention group was encouraged to attend a minimum of two yoga classes each week, but on average, they attended approximately 10.3 classes over the eight-week period.

Positive Results

After eight weeks, the participants who practiced heated yoga experienced a significant reduction in depressive symptoms compared to those on the waitlist.

The reduction was measured using the clinician-rated Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS-CR) scale.

Notably, 59.3% of the participants in the yoga group saw a 50% or greater decrease in their symptoms, whereas only 6.3% of those in the waitlist group achieved the same level of improvement.

Additionally, 44% of participants in the yoga group reached IDS-CR scores so low that their depression was considered in remission, compared to only 6.3% in the waitlist group.

Surprisingly, even participants who attended only half of the recommended yoga sessions experienced a reduction in depressive symptoms.

This suggests that heated yoga sessions, even once a week, may be beneficial for individuals with depression.

A Promising Non-Medication Approach

Lead author Maren Nyer, Ph.D., director of Yoga Studies at the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, highlighted the potential of yoga and heat-based interventions as a non-medication approach for treating depression.

She emphasized the additional physical benefits that come with this approach.

Nyer expressed the intention to conduct further research to determine the individual contributions of heat and yoga to the observed clinical effects in depression.

Participants in the heated yoga sessions had positive feedback about their experience, and there were no reported serious adverse effects associated with the intervention.

Future Research

Senior author David Mischoulon, MD, Ph.D., Director of the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, highlighted the need for future research to compare heated yoga to non-heated yoga in treating depression.

He mentioned that exploring the potential benefits of heat, especially in comparison to non-heated yoga, is important, given the promising evidence of whole-body hyperthermia as a treatment for major depressive disorder.

In conclusion, this study offers hope for individuals struggling with depression by suggesting that heated yoga can be a valuable and accessible treatment option.

It provides a non-medication approach that not only reduces depressive symptoms but also offers physical benefits.

Further research will help uncover the specific contributions of heat and yoga to these positive effects, potentially expanding treatment options for depression.

If you care about depression, please read studies about how dairy foods may influence depression risk, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and extra-virgin olive oil could reduce depression symptoms.

The research findings can be found in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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