Studies Offer Evidence Supporting Yoga As an Effective Way to Combat Depression

What if there were a way to treat depression that was as effective as our current medication, but instead of producing side effects like weight gain, fatigue, and insomnia, resulted in weight loss, increased vitality, and better sleep at night? Amazingly enough, preliminary studies indicate that such an alternative to drugs does exist—and it doesn’t even require a prescription.

According to a growing number of trials, exercise can provide up to over 95% of the mood-improvement that prescription drugs afford. This, of course, includes yoga. According to one recent study, yoga may be even more effective than other forms of exercise in helping people combat depression and anxiety. Think of it as the new-and-improved Prozac!

From early studies done in the 1970s and 1980s, we already knew that those who exercised regularly were not only less likely to be depressed, they were also less likely to ever become depressed than their inactive counterparts.

However, recent years have brought even more dramatic testimony to the foreground. For example, a 4-week study conducted in 1999 found that, among clinically depressed adults age 50+, exercise provided the exact same level of benefits that standard antidepressant treatment did.

A 2007 follow-up study examined over 200 patients of major depression across all adult age groups and found similar results. Patients who participated in a supervised exercise program displayed a 45% improved by the end of the 4-week study, just two percentage points away from the antidepressant group’s 47% improvement.

With such an amazing cure at our fingertips, it’s a wonder we’re not all leaping for the treadmill—or even just leaping for leaping’s sake. Of course, it’s not always easy to get started with or even maintain a regular exercise program. And that’s where the benefit of regular exercise classes, such as a yoga class, comes into play.

People who sign up for yoga classes are more likely to continue with their exercise program due to sense of commitment, financial investment, and the moral support provided by the class setting. In addition, yoga relieves depression by providing mood-elevating benefits above and beyond what basic exercise offers. By committing to a weekly or bi-weekly yoga class, we are making a commitment to taking care of ourselves—not just physically, but emotionally and even spiritually as well.