Yogic breathing can help fight depression

Yogic breathing can help fight depression
Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX/Shutterstock (5537215a)
MODEL RELEASED Woman holding a Vrksasana yoga pose in autmny park

Breathing-based yoga can help alleviate symptoms of severe depression, a new study claims.

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have conducted a study into the practice known as Sudarshan Kriya yoga, and how it impacted people who did not fully respond to antidepressant treatments.

For the pilot study, led by Dr. Anup Sharma, researchers enrolled 25 patients suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) who were still depressed, despite more than eight weeks of antidepressant medication treatment. The medicated patients were randomised to either the breathing intervention group or the “waitlist” control group for eight weeks. For weeks two through eight, participants attended weekly Sudarshan Kriya yoga follow-up sessions and completed a home practice version of the technique, including yoga postures, sitting meditation, and stress education.

After two months, the yoga group cut its mean Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) score by several points, while the control group showed no improvements. HDRS is the most widely used clinician-administered depression assessment that scores mood, interest in activities, energy, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of guilt, among other symptoms.

“With such a large portion of patients who do not fully respond to antidepressants, it’s important we find new avenues that work best for each person to beat their depression,” Dr Sharma said. “Here, we have a promising, lower-cost therapy that could potentially serve as an effective, non-drug approach for patients battling this disease.”

The meditation technique includes a series of sequential, rhythm-specific breathing exercises that bring people into a deep, restful, and meditative state: slow and calm breaths alternated with fast and stimulating breaths.

“Sudarshan Kriya yoga gives people an active method to experience a deep meditative state that’s easy to learn and incorporate in diverse settings,” he added.

Results of the pilot study recommend the feasibility and promise of Sudarshan Kriya as an add-on intervention for MDD patients who have not responded to antidepressants, the authors wrote.

“The next step in this research is to conduct a larger study evaluating how this intervention impacts brain structure and function in patients who have major depression,” Dr Sharma explained.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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