Due to the lockdown, the majority of people under stay-at-home orders have indulged themselves to online yoga as a way to manage the stress and to cope with the boredom. And a new research review suggests that yoga has so many health benefits more than we could think.
And while the trials focused on in-person classes for people with formal diagnoses, there are broader implications, the researchers said.
The review, of 19 clinical trials, focused on the benefits of yoga for people with clinical mental health conditions ranging from anxiety disorders to alcohol dependence to schizophrenia. Overall, it found yoga classes helped ease those patients’ depression symptoms.Nowadays, yoga is one of the most effective coping mechanism activity and brand new form of meditation for young and adults.
“Definitely, if you’ve thought about trying yoga, now is a great time to take the opportunity,” said Jacinta Brinsley, lead author on the review and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Australia School of Health Sciences in Adelaide.
“Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right type [of yoga],” Brinsley said. “Enjoyment is a really great indicator that it’s a good fit.”
Yoga comes in many styles. Brinsley said it’s not clear whether particular ones are more or less beneficial for depression symptoms: How much depends on specifics of the physical movement: Is it vigorous or gentle? Does the practice need to include breathing exercises or meditation?
Yoga — which combines physical movement with breathing exercises, meditation and other “mindfulness” practices — has been the subject of many studies.Physical activity is highly recommended part of managing and improving one’s mental health disorders, according to Brinsley.
But in general, Brinsley said, there is evidence that both exercise alone, and mindfulness practices alone, can help ease depression.
“So we infer that these practices combined, as yoga, are effective,” she said.
The review, published May 18 online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, covered 19 clinical trials from six countries. All tested the effects of yoga among people diagnosed with psychiatric conditions like major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol use disorders and schizophrenia.
The specifics varied, but each yoga program was at least 50% physical movement. Participants were randomly assigned to either add yoga to their usual treatment, go on a waitlist for yoga or to stick with standard care alone.
Overall, Brinsley’s team found, people practicing yoga showed a greater reduction in depression symptoms than those in the comparison groups.
Researchers said the average effect was “moderate,” not dramatic. And the studies were short-term, generally lasting a couple of months. So it’s not clear how long the benefits last, according to Brinsley.
But, she said, like other therapies, yoga is not a quick fix.
“Often, we don’t take a course of medication for 12 weeks and are cured, so we need to think about exercise and yoga and mindfulness in the same way,” Brinsley said. “It’s not necessarily a cure. To get the benefits, you’re going to have to keep doing it.”
Terri Miles is a registered yoga teacher in Culpeper, Va., who specializes in working with cancer patients and trauma survivors.
She agreed that consistency is crucial and stressed that yoga practice need not involve the “acrobatics” characteristic of some styles.
“Just the simple act of breathing properly can bring a change. You see it in people’s faces,” said Miles, a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.
Even a series of simple poses, she said, can be powerful, partly because it “distracts the mind from whatever was bothering it,” and also because of the movement itself.
“If I cue someone to ‘feel the stability of your feet,’ and they feel it, that sends a message to the brain, ‘Hey, you’re OK. You’re grounded,'” Miles said.
She agreed that now could be a good time to find online opportunities for yoga — with some classes being offered for free. Miles urged prospective students to check out teachers’ credentials and find out if their yoga style is what you’re looking for.