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Namaste Your Way to Positive Mental Health

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Yoga found to lessen symptoms of depression and stress

“Namaste” has crept its way into common vernacular, but have you ever thought about what it means?  It is a traditional gesture of respect made by bringing palms together before the face or chest while bowing.  It’s a common way to both start and finish a yoga class.  Those who practice, tout benefits including improved mood and flexibility.  It has even been suggested as a treatment for scoliosis.  Now, studies presented at the 125th Annual American Psychological Association Convention share that the practice of yoga appears to lessen the symptoms of depression, suggesting that it should be considered as a complementary therapy.

One study, out of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, focused on the antidepressant effects related to yoga.  Twenty-three male military veterans engaged in yoga twice a week for eight weeks.   Upon completion, participants rated the classes as enjoyable, at a 9.4 on a scale from 1-10, and more importantly they all experienced significantly lower symptoms of depression.

Another study out of Alliant University observed 52 women, aged 25-35 while they practiced Bikram yoga twice a week for eight weeks.  Half of recruited participants were told the classes were full and they’d have to wait for another series to start.  They were used as the control group.  They were all tested for depression at the beginning as well as throughout the study.  Significantly reduced symptoms of depression were found with yoga as compared to the control group.  Other studies presented also showed similar results with other improved measures such as optimism, physical and mental functioning.

Two additional studies were presented regarding depression.  One observed 12 patients with depression who participated in nine weeks of yoga.  Depression, anxiety, rumination and worry were measured before, at 12 weeks, and then 4 months after the yoga routine ended.  All scores decreased throughout the program, though rumination and worry decreased most significantly at follow up four months later.  The other study involved mildly depressed college students and researchers compared yoga with a simple 15-minute relaxation technique.  Interestingly, both were effective at reducing symptoms immediately afterwards, though yoga proved to minimize stress, anxiety and depression 2 months afterwards while relaxation did not.

These studies show us more evidence that yoga can help protect your mental health, especially during times that may cause stress, like the holidays.  So Namaste!

First Published January 2018

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