Yoga and coherent breathing improved depressive symptoms among adults with major depressive disorder, according to recent findings.
“In disorders with low parasympathetic tone, such as MDD, yoga-based interventions are associated with symptomatic improvement,” Chris Streeter, MD, of Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “Slow breathing exercises have also been liked to increased [heart-rate variability] and improved mood.”
To assess efficacy of Iyengar yoga and coherent breathing at five breaths per minute for depressive symptoms, researchers conducted a randomized controlled dosing study among 30 adults with MDD who were not using antidepressants or were on a stable dose for at least 3 months. Study participants were randomly assigned to a 12-week intervention of high or low doses of yoga. The high-dose group completed three yoga classes plus four 30-minute homework sessions per week. The low-dose group completed two yoga classes plus three 30-minute homework sessions per week.
Yoga classes were 90 minutes, which consisted of 60 minutes of yoga postures and 10 minutes of deep relaxation and ujjayi breathing, followed by 20 minutes of coherent breathing.
From screening to week 12, Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) scores significantly decreased among participants in the high-dose group (24.6 to 6; P < .001) and the low-dose group (27.7 to 10.1; P < .001).
Response and remission did not significantly differ between groups, according to researchers. However, a greater number of participants in the high-dose group had BDI-II scores of 10 or lower at week 12 (P = .04).
“This study supports the use of a yoga and coherent breathing intervention in major depressive disorder in people who are not on antidepressants and in those who have been on a stable dose of antidepressants and have not achieved a resolution of their symptoms,” Streeter said in a press release. “While most pharmacologic treatment for depression target monoamine systems, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, this intervention targets the parasympathetic and gamma aminobutyric acid system and provides a new avenue for treatment.” – by Amanda Oldt
Disclosure: Streeter reports teaching and publishing Breath-Body-Mind, a technique that uses coherent breathing. Please see the study for a full list of relevant financial disclosures.