Treating Major Depression With Yoga

Wanna hear a really depressing fact? More and more Americans are being diagnosed with depression every year. According to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, the number of men and women diagnosed with depression has increased more than four times since 1987!

That's a depressing fact for us, but not for Big Pharma. They are taking it to the bank. Sales for antidepressant drugs have risen dramatically since 1987. But here's the problem. The drugs might be selling well, but they're not working all that well.

According to one recent article, "Conventional pharmacotherapies and psychotherapies for major depression are associated with limited adherence to care and relatively low remission rates." Those authors offered another solution for people battling depression. And their solution has nothing at all to do with drugs.

The researchers recruited 38 adult men and women who were diagnosed with a "major depression of mild-to-moderate severity." None of them were undergoing any treatment, this included psychotherapy, antidepressant drugs, herbal or nutraceutical mood therapies, or mind-body practices. They assigned 20 of them to 90 minutes of hatha yoga twice a week for eight weeks. They sent the other 18 to a class that met for the same amount of time in which they were taught attention control. Both groups were taught by certified yoga instructors.


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Every two weeks, the researchers measured all the participants BDI (Beck Depression Inventory) scores. The BDI is a way to determine the severity of depression. The more depressed you are, the higher your BDI score will be. A score = 9 indicates no significant depression. Here's what happened.

Both groups started with BDI scores of 20. The group that was attending the attention control classes showed significant fluctuation in their scores. Sometimes they increased, and at other times they decreased. Overall, on average their final scores decreased to 17. But there was no fluctuation in the yoga group. Their scores consistently went straight down all the way to 12.

When the researchers compared the individual results in both groups, they found that although a few of the attention class folks were better, every single one of the yoga participants were better. In addition, the researchers found that the yoga participants were more likely to lose their depression altogether, as defined by a final BDI score = 9. They concluded, "In adults with mild-to-moderate major depression, an 8-week hatha yoga intervention resulted in statistically and clinically significant reductions in depression severity."

About 35 years ago, I spent a week at a yoga retreat center to learn hatha yoga. It is very easy. Literally anyone can do it. It just involves relaxing into different stretching positions while using your breathing to relax the muscles and eliminate any tension. I still spend about 15 minutes every night before bed going through some of the stretches. As long as I keep the habit up, I find that I sleep better, my body feels better, and I am much less likely to get an injury compared to those times when I got lazy and stopped doing it. It's a very easy thing to learn. There are classes in virtually every city, and you can also learn it through instructional videos. I highly recommend it even if you aren't depressed.

Yours for better health,





Prathikanti S, Rivera R, et al. Treating major depression with yoga: A prospective, randomized, controlled pilot trial. PLoS One. 2017 Mar 16;12(3):e0173869.

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