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Can Yoga Help With Anxiety And Depression

Finding A Yoga Class To Help Ease Anxiety Symptoms

Can Yoga Help with Anxiety or Depression? What Does the Research Say?

Yoga has become a mainstream form of exercise, relaxation, and spiritual growth. Most likely, there are many yoga class offerings in your area. Some yoga instructors even offer classes that are specifically geared toward certain issues, such as anxiety or depression.

Check out different yoga studios, recreation centers, spas, and community classes to find one that fits your needs.

Effectiveness Of The Yoga Intervention By Condition

Studies Assessing Anxiety and Depression

There were five RCTs assessing changes in levels of both anxiety and depression . Of those, two showed no significant differences between or within groups while two studies showed reductions in symptoms of both anxiety and depression , and one study only showed reductions in symptoms of anxiety . The two studies showing improvements across both outcomes compared yoga to no treatment or regular PE class , and the study showing improvements in anxiety compared yoga to usual care for the treatment of IBS . Studies showing no differences between groups compared yoga to a discussion group and regular physical activity, but the frequency and duration of the regular physical activity was not specified . Four out of seven studies assessing yoga in a pre-post uncontrolled design showed improvements for both outcomes following the intervention . Another study only showed improvements for subjects with elevated baseline levels of anxiety and depression, and two studies showed reductions in symptoms of anxiety only .

Studies Assessing Only Anxiety

Studies Assessing Only Depression

Study Completion and Adherence

Study completion rate was reported in 16 studies . Adherence to yoga classes was rarely reported, but one study reported 100% adherence to the yoga training , while another reported 94% adherence . One study characterized adherence as comparable to attendance to typical PE classes and another characterized it as moderate .


Adverse Events

How Yoga Therapy Works

Dr. Mason Turner of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group says yoga therapy can be very powerful in the treatment of depression. Even if yoga isnt your forte, the combination of meditation and physical movement provide two important elements for relieving depression. Meditation helps bring a person into the present moment and allows them to clear their minds. Controlled, focused movements also help strengthen the body-mind connection.

Breathing exercises are effective in reducing depressive symptoms, according to one study. You may find yoga helpful as the exercise focuses on deep, controlled breathing.

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Yoga Poses Stimulate The Vagus Nerve

The parasympathetic nervous system helps us to feel safe and calm, and various aspects of yoga help to stimulate it, says Valerie Knopik, PhD, a psychologist, professor at Purdue University, and yoga instructor at Yoga Medicine based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Yoga stimulates the vagus nerve by enhancing interoception, or how we perceive sensations arising in the body.


Practices that increase interoception enable a person to distinguish between safe and fearful or dangerous situations, Knopik says.

Yoga also increases vagal tone, which means your body is able to relax sooner after stress. Knopik says that increasing your vagal tone could reduce the symptoms of nervous system dysfunction, such as feelings of anxiety.

Yoga offers many opportunities to experience interoception and stimulate the vagus nerve. Through physical movement, you can explore sensation as it arises in your body by developing awareness of what muscles are being challenged, stretched, or released.

Benefits Of Yoga As A Treatment For Anxiety And Depression

How Yoga Can Help Combat Anxiety and Depression  Hot ...

Many yoga practices are safe and effective remedies for dealing with anxiety and depression. However, some are strenuous and may not be appropriate, especially for the elderly or people with mobility issues. Thats why consulting a doctor before choosing yoga is highly advised.

All in all, many people prefer yoga when it comes to dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. Yoga enhances both your physical and mental health, and this is one of the reasons why it appeals to so many patients around the world. Here are some of the main reasons why yoga is the best remedy for treating stress, anxiety, and depression


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The Benefits Of Bikram And Hatha Yoga

In one study â conducted by Lindsey Hopkins, Ph.D., of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center in California, and colleagues â involved 23 male veterans.

Twice weekly for a total of 8 weeks, each participant engaged in a session of hatha yoga, which is a type of yoga that focuses on a combination of physical exercises, meditation, and breathing exercises.

The researchers found that participants who had high scores on a depression scale prior to the 8-week yoga intervention demonstrated a significant reduction in depression scores after the 8 weeks.

What is more, participants were found to enjoy the practice, rating enjoyment of the sessions as 9.4 on a scale of 1 to 10.


In another study of 52 women aged 25 to 45 years, Sarah Shallit â of Alliant International University in San Francisco, CA â and colleagues randomized more than half of the participants to twice-weekly sessions of Bikram yoga for a total of 8 weeks.

Bikram yoga â popularized in the 1970s by Indian yoga teacher Bikram Choudhury â is a type of yoga consisting of 26 postures.

The remaining study participants were wait-listed for the Bikram yoga sessions for 8 weeks, and they acted as the controls.

The depression levels of both groups were assessed at four time points: at study baseline, at weeks 3 and 8, and at 1 week after the yoga sessions had ceased.

How Your Brain Reacts

Stress and anxiety are major triggers of depression, and meditation can alter your reaction to those feelings. “Meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious,” says Dr. John W. Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.


Meditation has been found to change certain brain regions that are specifically linked with depression. For instance, scientists have shown that the medial prefrontal cortex becomes hyperactive in depressed people. The mPFC is often called the “me center” because this is where you process information about yourself, such as worrying about the future and ruminating about the past. When people get stressed about life, the mPFC goes into overdrive.

Another brain region associated with depression is the amygdala, or “fear center.” This is the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response, which triggers the adrenal glands to release the stress hormone cortisol in response to fear and perceived danger.

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A Yoga Practice For Well

This simple yoga pose for anxiety and depression comes from the book Yoga for Depression, by Amy Weintraub. Therefore, it helps to calm the nervous system and build energy.

  • Place two folded blankets, a bolster, or a firm cushion under your back, just beneath the shoulder blades. Make sure the lift is comfortable. Use more or less support as feels right for your body.
  • Place a rolled blanket underneath your neck so that the back of your head rests comfortably on the floor.
  • Place a cushion under your knees and allow your legs to be a comfortable distance apart. This is usually about hip-width.
  • Allow your arms to stretch out comfortably at shoulder level, with palms facing up.
  • Stay in this position for at least five minutes. On each inhale, imagine breathing into the crown of your head and repeat silently I am. On each exhale, imagine the breath going to your feet and repeat silently, here.
  • How Yoga For Anxiety Works

    Yoga for Anxiety | How to Deal With Anxiety and Depression With Yoga

    How does yoga relieve anxiety? Researchers theorize that the mindful movement and breathing done in yoga activates the relaxation response , via the vagus nerve. Therefore, yoga moves us out of the sympathetic nervous system . Moreover, it moves us into the parasympathetic nervous system system. The vagus nerve helps control the parasympathetic nervous system.


    Furthermore, yoga increases levels of GABA. GABA is the neurotransmitter in the brain that helps relax the mind. In a 12-week study, participants either walked or did yoga for an hour three times a week. The yoga group showed greater increases in GABA levels. In addition, they showed greater improvement in mood and anxiety.

    Another study compared a cognitive behavioral therapy intervention to a CBT intervention with a yoga component. Both groups met every week for two months. One group did CBT and the other practiced both CBT and yoga.

    As a result, both groups reported reductions in anxiety and panic-related body sensations. However, the changes were greater for those who did both CBT and yoga poses to relieve stress and anxiety.

    Moreover, yoga has also been shown to reduce anxiety in people with cancer. And another study showed that yoga for anxiety was effective for people trying to quit smoking.

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    Is Yoga More Effective Than Clinical Treatment

    While many people practice yoga to relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety disorders, it should not always serve as a replacement for clinical treatment, especially when a person is experiencing panic attacks or has a severe anxiety disorder diagnosis.

    While proponents may claim the yoga high experienced during a yoga practice can offer relief from stress and anxiety, its important to keep in mind that this emotional state is often fleeting.

    In fact, a 2021 study suggests that in some cases, mindfulness practices can backfire and actually cause anxiety to spike.

    While yoga can be a healthy coping mechanism, relying on it to resolve a psychological condition is not an effective long-term solution on its own.

    Anything can become unhealthy when done to extremes, Knopik says. Our bodies thrive with variability, both from a physiological perspective and an emotional perspective. Finding multiple ways to relieve anxiety would be most beneficial to most individuals. From a stress management perspective, the more resources we have available, the better.

    Extended Triangle Pose Utthita Trikonasana

    Yoga experts recommend Triangle Pose and Extended Triangle Pose as great postures for beginners.

    Extended Triangle Pose in particular is thought to help alleviate anxiety and depression. It is seen as a posture that can better help you cope better when life is tough.

    How does it work?

    Well its thought that by tilting your body, you are equally distributing the energy flow, helping you feel calmer and more balanced.

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    The Right Yoga Class For You

    Yoga comes in many styles, so read the class description before you sign up. Iyengar, Bikram, and Hatha are three popular types of yoga that focus on physical poses, breathing techniques, and meditation.

    You can look for a class for beginners at a local gym, yoga studio, community center, or place of worship. You can always ask an instructor if you may preview a class to see if youâd be comfortable taking it. If you prefer online sessions, those are also a good way to see if a class style works for you — and there are lots of online options.

    When you take a class, let the teacher know about any of your concerns or physical limits. The instructor should help you adjust poses as needed.

    Researchers donât know if there is an ideal amount of yoga to do, but one hourlong class a week could be a good place to start. If thatâs too much, start with a few poses and build your practice slowly. Research suggests that the more yoga sessions you do a week, the more your depressive or anxiety symptoms may ease. But as with any activity, donât overdo it.

    Stay in tune with how your body and mind feel during and after a yoga class. Physically, yoga may be a challenge but shouldnât hurt. If you feel sad, stressed, or like you donât have any energy after a class, that type might not work for you. You can try other styles of classes until you find the right fit.

    Apply Yoga Philosophy In Your Life Stay Happy And Enjoy Every Moment

    How Regular Yoga Can Help With Anxiety and Depression ...

    Knowing and applying the ancient yoga knowledge in daily life, which talks about some simple yet profound principles of yoga, can be the secret to happy and healthy living. For instance, the Santosha principle teaches the value of contentment. The Aprigraha principle can help us overcome greediness or the desire to keep possessing more, which can be a reason for stress and anxiety. Also, the Shaucha principle talks about cleanliness of the mind and body. This rule can particularly help if you tend to get too anxious about catching infectious diseases.

    The yamas and niyamas of yoga will also help us eat nutritious food and live a healthy lifestyle which greatly helps to overcome anxiety and stress. To understand the yoga philosophy, you may consider reading Sri Sri Ravi Shankars Commentary on Patanjali Yoga Sutras.

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    Can Yoga Form Part Of Treatment For Depression

    Depression is a complex illness that affects people in different ways, so a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment wont be effective.

    But there are ways in which yoga could be beneficial as part of a range of options to improve mental wellbeing.

    For example, physical illness can lead to the development of mental health problems, so staying active can help to maintain your mental health generally and this is increasingly being recognised by healthcare professionals.

    Doctors in the UK are starting to prescribe exercise for people with depression and anxiety, instead of just medication or talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy , according to the mental health charity Mind.

    Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is also recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK to help prevent depression in people who have experienced the condition on 3 or more occasions in the past. This form of therapy aims to make you more aware of negative thoughts and to deal with those thoughts in a constructive way.

    We know that physical activity is good for both our mental and physical health, and that lots of people find meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercises helpful, especially people who experience problems with anxiety and panic attacks, says Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind.

    What Are Yoga And Meditation

    Inherent in the philosophy of yoga and meditation is the reduction of suffering and the increase in ones vitality and full potential in life. Yoga is a holistic practice that integrates three basic components: breath , physical poses , and meditation . According to Buddhist traditions, mindfulness meditation is defined as the ability to maintain attention on a specific object , with an emphasis on returning to beneficial thoughts. The practice of mindfulness meditation within a yoga class can facilitate increased awareness of present-moment experiences and focus, rather than resisting or trying to clear the mind of uncomfortable, negative thoughts. In this way, yoga and meditation practice in the context of a yoga class can support the process of learning how to disengage from evaluative thinking through cultivating an attitude of curiosity and attention to ongoing reactions to emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

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    Assessment Tools And Management

    To collect data, the questionnaire of DASS-21 was used. The validity and reliability of this standard questionnaire was examined by Sahebi et al. and Cronbach’s alpha was estimated 0.7, 0.66 and 0.76 for depression, anxiety, and stress, respectively. in a study entitled validation of depression anxiety and stress scale for an Iranian population. Each of the above mentioned states are assessed with seven questions. Hatha yoga exercises and training sessions were held 3 time/weeks 60-70 min each by a specialist. Before the intervention, questionnaires were completed by women. The intervention lasted 12 sessions. At the end of the 12th session, the questionnaire of DASS-21 was again completed by women.

    Strengthen Yourself With Awareness

    Yoga for Depression and Anxiety| Gentle Yoga to Manage Depression & Anxiety| Yoga with Yana

    In addition to its physiological benefits, yoga teaches awareness, an invaluable skill for people who struggle with anxiety or depression. If Id had more awareness that night in the theater, I could have responded differently to my bodys cues and perhaps been able to stave off a full panic attack. I would have noticed my shallow breathingoften a sign of anxietyand tried yoga breathing techniques to help me focus and calm down. Or I might have noticed earlier in the day that I was exhausted and in no condition to be in such a stimulating environment. I might have even observed the effects of some deeper issues going onat that time my job was miserable, my relationship was unstable, and I was sad being far away from family without a sense of home. If Id been able to recognize any of those things, I could have made different choices along the way and perhaps reduced my suffering.

    Usually, the first way Westerners learn to build awareness in yoga is by practicing the poses. But the myriad instructions heard in class arent just designed to improve your poses. They give your busy mind something to focus on and therefore keep you in the present moment. For people with anxiety, this is a particular blessing. When youre anxious, you cant focus on anything because you feel overwhelmed, says Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., P.T., who wrote 30 Essential Yoga Poses. Having something concrete to focus on, like a pose or your breath or a mantra, is very settling.

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    Pray Keep Faith And Smile

    Prayer is the best form of reassurance and support to keep you anxiety-free. Developing habits of daily prayer, chanting or singing bhajans fill you with positive energy and also help still the mind. They also instill a sense of deep faith that all happens for the best and that there is a higher divine power that takes care. Moreover, make a conscious effort to smile more and more. It will instill confidence, calmness and positivity instantaneously. Try it out right now!

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