By Lily Anderson
Staff Writer for Wake Up World
Depression is a widespread mental health concern that affects millions of people worldwide. While various treatment options exist, a recent clinical trial suggests that heated yoga may hold the key to reducing depression symptoms effectively. In a randomized controlled clinical trial conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital, individuals with moderate-to-severe depression experienced remarkable reductions in their depressive symptoms after participating in heated yoga sessions. This ground breaking study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, brings to light the potential of heated yoga as a viable treatment option for patients battling depression.
The study, led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital, involved 80 participants with moderate-to-severe depression. These individuals were divided into two groups: one received 90-minute sessions of Bikram yoga practiced in a room heated to a scorching 105°F, while the other group served as a waitlist control. Importantly, participants on the waitlist eventually completed the yoga intervention after their waitlist period.
Participants in the yoga group were encouraged to attend at least two yoga classes per week, with an average attendance of 10.3 classes over the eight-week trial. At the end of the trial, the results were truly remarkable. Those who participated in heated yoga sessions experienced a significant reduction in depressive symptoms compared to those on the waitlist.
The reductions in depressive symptoms were measured using the clinician-rated Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS-CR) scale. The findings were astounding – 59.3% of the yoga participants experienced a 50% or greater decrease in symptoms, compared to only 6.3% of waitlisted participants. Furthermore, 44% of participants in the yoga group achieved such low IDS-CR scores that their depression was considered to be in remission, compared to just 6.3% in the waitlist group.
A notable revelation from the study was that even participants who attended only half of the prescribed yoga sessions still experienced a reduction in depressive symptoms. This suggests that heated yoga sessions just once a week could potentially be beneficial in alleviating depression.
Insights from the Lead Author
Lead author Maren Nyer, PhD, who is the director of Yoga Studies at the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, commented on the findings, saying, “Yoga and heat-based interventions could potentially change the course for the treatment of patients with depression by providing a non-medication-based approach with additional physical benefits as a bonus.” This statement underscores the potential of yoga as a holistic and non-invasive treatment option for depression.
Nyer also highlighted that they are currently developing new studies to determine the specific contributions of each element – heat and yoga – to the clinical effects observed in depression. This indicates that the scientific community is eager to explore this exciting avenue further.
In addition to the promising results, participants in the heated yoga sessions rated the experience positively. Furthermore, no serious adverse effects were associated with the intervention, demonstrating its safety and feasibility.
Future Research and Implications
While this study presents encouraging findings regarding heated yoga as a treatment for depression, more research is needed to compare heated yoga to non-heated yoga for depression. This comparison will help to determine whether the heat aspect offers unique benefits beyond those provided by yoga itself.
Senior author David Mischoulon, MD, PhD, Director of the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, stated, “Future research is needed to compare heated to non-heated yoga for depression to explore whether heat has benefits over and above that of yoga for the treatment of depression, especially given the promising evidence for whole-body hyperthermia as a treatment for major depressive disorder.” These upcoming studies may provide a deeper understanding of the potential advantages of heated yoga for depression treatment.
For those struggling with depression, heated yoga may offer a holistic and non-pharmaceutical approach to alleviate symptoms. While this study suggests that frequent heated yoga sessions can be highly beneficial, even attending just one session a week may provide relief.
As you consider incorporating heated yoga into your routine, consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best approach for your specific needs. It’s important to remember that while heated yoga shows promise as a depression treatment, it should not replace any existing treatment plans without consultation with a medical professional.
In conclusion, this study has illuminated an exciting path for individuals living with depression. Heated yoga, with its potential to reduce depressive symptoms, could be a valuable addition to the toolbox of depression management, providing an empowering and therapeutic option that harnesses the power of the mind and body. As the researchers continue their investigations, we may witness the emergence of heated yoga as a compelling treatment option for those seeking a holistic and effective approach to combat depression.
- Maren B. Nyer, Lindsey B. Hopkins, Megha Nagaswami, Richard Norton, Chris C. Streeter, Bettina B. Hoeppner, Chloe E. C. Sorensen, Lisa Uebelacker, Jill Koontz, Simmie Foster, Christina Dording, Naoise Mac Giollabhui, Albert Yeung, Lauren B. Fisher, Cristina Cusin, Felipe A. Jain, Paola Pedrelli, Grace A. Ding, Ashley E. Mason, Paolo Cassano, Darshan H. Mehta, Christina Sauder, Charles L. Raison, Karen K. Miller, Maurizio Fava, David Mischoulon. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Community-Delivered Heated Hatha Yoga for Moderate-to-Severe Depression. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2023; 84 (6) DOI: 10.4088/JCP.22m14621
About the author:
Lily Anderson is a passionate wordsmith and dedicated explorer of cutting-edge scientific inquiries. Fuelled by a thirst for knowledge, she skilfully transforms intricate ideas into relatable tales, inviting readers to embark on a captivating expedition of revelation. Lily’s efforts play a crucial role in bridging the gap between experts and the wider public, evoking a sense of awe and encouraging insightful discussions about groundbreaking scientific advancements.