SAN DIEGO — Outcomes of a randomized, controlled pilot study indicated that hatha yoga practice reduced depression severity in patients with mild-to-moderate depression, according to research presented here at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting.
Sudha Prathikanti, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, presented what she believes is the first randomized clinical trial of yoga monotherapy for major depressive disorder.
Prathikanti said that in the Yoga Alliance Study, in 2016, 15% of U.S. adults have participated in yoga and that 34% of U.S. adults said they would be likely to do so in the next 12 months.
“Yoga practice is becoming dramatically popular,” she said, noting that yoga is commonly used by the public to self-treat depression.
The appeal of yoga includes ease of access, high social acceptance, favorable risk/benefit profile, relatively low cost and the focus on the whole person, Prathikanti said.
With this interest brought more scientific study; however, early studies often had methodological problems and “a lot of enthusiasm initially motivated some of these studies, but unfortunately we need to interpret these initial studies with caution because first of all there may have been a positive bias in the early stages to publish positive findings,” she said.
Prathikanti said they looked at the “mild-to-moderate group because conventional therapy has the most limited benefit ... and the group probably is unlikely to or will avoid seeking out treatment.”
Prathikanti reported the results of her study, which included 38 eligible adult participants with mild-to-moderate major depressive disorder. These participants had no other Axis I disorder nor were they engaged in psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, herbal or nutraceutical therapy or another mind-body practice such as tai chi.
Twenty patients were randomly assigned to a 90-minute hatha yoga practice twice weekly for 8 weeks and 18 patients were randomly assigned to a 90-minute attention control education groups twice weekly for 8 weeks.
“Yoga participants exhibited significantly greater 8-week decline in BDI scores than controls,” Prathikanti reported; (P = .034).
“While nonspecific mood benefits of study participation may account for some of the initial reduction of depression there may be additional intervention specific benefits that accrues with the practice alone,” she said.
Prathikanti said they sought to mitigate performance bias by “planting the seed in all the participants that both interventions have positive mood simply by learning novel yoga information.” She said further study is needed. – by Joan-Marie Stiglich, ELS
Prathikanti S. Treating major depression with yoga: A randomized controlled pilot trial. Presented at: American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting; May 20-24, 2017; San Diego.
Disclosure: Prathikanti reports no relevant financial disclosures.