Depression is an invisible illness that can cast a shadow over anyone, anytime, anywhere, with one in 4 Brits experiencing a mental health problem every year, according to Mind.
However, a new study investing the link between exercise and mental health – the largest of its kind – has come up with a novel solution to the very real depression epidemic; yoga.
Participants reported weekly hatha yoga classes resulted in a marked 50 per cent reduction in their symptoms of depression, and an improvement in their overall health and social function.
The American study was published in the journal of Psychological Medicine, and conducted by a team of experts from the prestigious Brown University.
It saw 63 patients suffering from severe depression take weekly hatha yoga classes and compared their ongoing well-being to a different group of 59 severely depressed participants who took health education classes.
All the participants had been diagnosed with medical depression and were prescribed anti-depressants as a treatment.
After six months researchers found a promising development in the well-being of study participants who took the regular yoga classes, suggesting the benefits of yoga increase over time.
51 per cent of yoga patients reported at least a 50 per cent improvement in their symptoms. The same could be said for just 31 per cent of participants taking the health education classes.
A previous study done by a King’s College London team of researchers found that yoga cut the levels of stress hormone, cortisol, and may improve concentration through the practise of focused breathing.
Dr Lisa Uebelacker of Brown University, who authored the study, said:
We hypothesised that yoga participants would show lower depression severity over time, as well as better social and role functioning, better general health perceptions and physical functioning, and less physical pain relative to the control group.
Dr Uebelacker added, “We found that yoga did indeed have an impact on depression symptoms.”
Hatha yoga is a challenging branch of yoga that emphasises mastering the body physically alongside mind exercises drawing force – the literal translation of ‘hatha’ from Sanskrit – from external objects.
While yoga might not work for everyone, you can’t help but welcome alternative methods of tackling depression and the prevalence of modern scientific research into invisible illnesses.
For advice on depression and how to tackle it, visit your GP or contact the mental health charity, Mind. Please do not suffer in silence.