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Research published in Psychological Medicine shows yoga is highly effective in treating major depression.

While traditional treatment such as medication or psychotherapy is effective for many patients, some may not fully recover even with these treatments. Researchers sought to determine if the addition of hatha yoga would improve treatment outcomes for these patients.

The research was led by Lisa Uebelacker, PhD, a research psychologist in the Psychosocial Research Department at Butler Hospital, New England. She says: "We did not see statistically significant differences between hatha yoga and a control group (health education) at 10 weeks, however, when we examined outcomes over the three and six months after yoga classes ended, we found yoga was superior to health education in alleviating depression symptoms."

According to Uebelacker, this is the largest study of yoga for depression to date. The team enrolled individuals with current or recent major depression who were receiving antidepressant medication and continued to have clinically significant depression symptoms. Participants were randomised into two groups - those who participated in a hatha yoga class and a control group who took part in a health education class. The intervention phase lasted 10 weeks and participants were followed for six months afterward.

"We hypothesised that yoga participants would show lower depression severity over time as assessed by the Quick Inventory of Depression Symptomatology (QIDS), as well as better social and role functioning, better general health perceptions and physical functioning, and less physical pain relative to the control group," said Uebelacker. "We found that yoga did indeed have a significant impact on depression symptoms."