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In a recent study, investigators examined the effect Iyengar yoga had on individuals, aged 18 to 64 who suffered from depression.
The 30 study participants were divided into two groups, each containing people either on the same medication for 90 days, or not taking depression-related drugs.
One group engaged in two 90-minute yoga classes, and three 30-minute at home yoga sessions each week. The second group took a 90-minute yoga class three times per week, plus four 30-minute at home sessions.
Compliance was the same for both groups, and after three months each group experienced at least a 50 percent reduction in depressive symptoms. However, the group that practiced yoga seven days per week showed greater symptom improvement.
The advantage of diminishing symptoms with exercise is the avoidance of medication side effects. “While most pharmacologic treatment for depression targets monoamine systems, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, this intervention targets the parasympathetic...system and provides a new avenue for treatment,” said researcher Dr. Chris Streeter, Boston University School of Medicine.
Iyengar yoga integrates precise posture alignment, and deep breathing, though earlier depression studies using other types of yoga also had positive outcomes. It seems that yoga techniques activate the brain’s “feel good” chemicals, and apparently diminishes immune system substances that exacerbate depression.
“It has been demonstrated that ‘mindful’ movement - conscious awareness - has a...beneficial impact on the central nervous system,” says psychiatrist Dr. Alan Manevitz of Lenox Hill Hospital who reviewed the research findings.
The Boston University study suggests that people wanting to reduce stress, or enhance their mood take two or three yoga classes per week, and practice at home on non-class days. Look for sessions that include controlled breathing techniques, and end with a period of deep-breathing and relaxation.
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