Yoga to treat Depression


SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Depression affects 15 million adults during a given year. But now, a new way to treat depression may have some patients heading to a yoga studio. A first of its kind study shows symptoms of depression improved significantly once patients committed to yoga just twice a week.

This isn’t just any “cobra” pose for Allison Mather. This is one of the poses that saved her life.

Mather said “The most important thing from the study was the breathing.”

Just a few years ago Mather was unemployed, grieving the end of a long relationship, and the deaths of three family members. In a tail spin and strapped for money, she volunteered for a study with an unconventional remedy, yoga.

“It’s a life saver after a long week, if you don’t take that time for yourself to stretch and breathe; it makes a huge difference in the long run.” Mather continued.

In a groundbreaking US study using just yoga to treat major depression, researchers at UC San Francisco showed yoga not only works, it’s highly effective.

Sudha Prathikanti, MD, the Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UC San Francisco said “Once the initial sequence of yoga therapy is learned properly, this is something you can do on your own.”

To get a clear picture of yoga’s impact, patients could not be in psychotherapy or taking anti-depressants.   Participants did yoga twice a week showing significant improvement in just two months.

“We had 60 percent remission rate in the yoga group. That was actually fairly surprising to us.” Dr. Prathikanti continued.

Doctors prescribe anti-depression meds that may have unwanted side effects. Talk therapy can be costly and is not always available, especially without insurance. As for yoga, find a quiet spot, and it’s free.

Though these results are promising, doctors add this is a small, pilot study and further research is needed. Noting safety concerns, patients with severe major depression were not included in this study.

Contributors to this news report include: Tana Castro-Boysen, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Rusty Reed, Videographer.

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REPORT #2448

BACKGROUND: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 6.7% of the U.S. population over age 18 is affected by major depression. Sudha Prathikanti, MD at UC San Francisco says “Major depression is classified as mild, moderate or severe, based on the level of functional impairment.” During a lifetime, 20% to 25% of adults may suffer an episode. Severe depression can affect relationships and normal activities every day. Depression not only affects the mind, but the body as well. The body can suffer from fatigue, insomnia, and significant weight changes. Women are twice as likely to have depression as men. Usually these factors are due to puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage, and menopause. Other factors also include stress at home or work, caring for an elderly person, raising a child alone and balancing family with career. Men are less likely to seek help. Signs of depression in men include irritability, anger or drug and alcohol addiction. A primary care doctor or a psychiatrist will typically diagnose depression through a medical evaluation.  Once you have had a major episode of depression, you are more likely to have another one. It is vital to acknowledge what the triggers are and to seek treatment from a physician.


TRADITIONAL TREATMENT:  Your physician or psychiatrist may prescribe antidepressant medication depending on the severity of symptoms.  They may add other drugs to boost effectiveness and suggest psychotherapy or talk therapy. If medications are ineffective, electroconvulsive therapy (also called ECT or shock therapy) may be used to treat symptoms. There are common side effects to taking antidepressants, such as nausea, dizziness, constipation, and anxiety. Other problems can be weight related, sleep related, and even sex related. Children, adolescents and young adults taking antidepressants may be at risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior during the first month of treatment and should be carefully monitored. No increased risk has been seen in older adults and, in fact, patients over 65 actually have less risk of suicide when taking these drugs. Antidepressants take time getting used to and may need some adjustment.

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NEW STUDY: Traditional treatments for depression have not always been helpful for those dealing with depression. However, a treatment that’s side effect is muscle soreness can be a better option for many.  In a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine conducted at Boston University, half of the 30 participants ranging from 18 -64 participated in a 90-minute lyengar yoga class three times a week as well as four 30-minute sessions at home per week. The other half took two group classes and three at home sessions every week. The participants were either not taking antidepressants or on a steady dose for at least three months. The classes emphasized controlled breathing, alignment and precise posture. After three months both groups lowered their scores in a depression-screening questionnaire by at least 50%. Those who took three classes per week scored better than those who took two. Yoga balances the autonomic nervous system. It has been reported that antidepressants show that 40% of the users do not fully recover from depression and what can help those 40% from falling back into depression over and over again is to aid the antidepressants with yoga. Iyengar yoga is said to be a safe practice for people of all levels of expertise. It is also important to stick with a yoga routine much like one would stick to a specific dosage.


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Sudha Prathikanti, MD                                               Suzanne Leigh                                Public Relations