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Yoga ‘may ease depressive symptoms in people with other mental health disorders’

By Nilima Marshall, PA Science Reporter

Regular yoga practice may help reduce depressive symptoms in people with other mental health disorders, a new study suggests.

The findings, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, is based on a systematic review and data analysis of 13 studies with 632 participants.

The effects were most noticeable for depression and schizophrenia, and to some extent, for alcohol misuse, the scientists said.

Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide, with more than 264 million people living with the mental disorder, according to the World Health Organisation.

Depressive symptoms often appear alongside other mental health issues, such as generalised anxiety and psychotic disorders.

Lead author Jacinta Brinsley, from the University of South Australia, along with an international team of researchers, wanted to know if yoga might be beneficial for people with mental health issues.

They looked for randomised controlled trials that analysed the effects of yoga on a range of mental health disorders including depression, generalised anxiety, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, stress, psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, panic disorders and substance misuse.

On average, each weekly yoga session lasted between 20 and 90 minutes over a period of around two and a half months and included breathing exercises, mindfulness and moving postures.

The movement component comprised more than half of each session, the researchers said.

Yoga was found to have a moderate effect in reducing depressive symptoms when compared with usual, no, or self-help treatments for depression.

The higher the number of weekly yoga sessions completed, the greater the effect on reducing depressive symptoms, the researchers said.

The team wrote: “Consideration of yoga as an evidence based exercise modality alongside conventional forms of exercise is warranted, given the positive results of this review.”

They added: “Yoga may provide an additional or alternative strategy to engage people experiencing depression in meaningful physical activity.”