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Major depressive disorder (MDD), known typically as depression, affects nearly seven percent of U.S. adults aged eighteen or older according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And at some point during their lifetimes, twenty to twenty-five percent of adults may have experienced an episode of major depression. Symptoms of MDD can include chronic fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, lack of interest in activities, weight loss or gain, restlessness, and thoughts of suicide.

Yoga as a Treatment

While medications are often prescribed to treat the symptoms of MDD, alternative therapies like yoga are showing significant reduction in symptoms as well. A recent study published by The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, and conducted by researchers from Harvard School of Medicine and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons found that during a twelve-week study, thirty participants who took three yoga classes a week were more likely to achieve lower depression scores after twelve weeks than subjects who took two classes. It’s believed that yoga’s focus on precision and body alignment through postures, and a concentration on breathing, where participants take just five breaths per minute, can increase serotonin production in the brain, improving the participant’s mood.

Results of the Study

The study included thirty adults ages eighteen to sixty-four with diagnosed MDD. Their symptoms of depression were measured at the beginning and throughout the 12-week study. The findings concluded that when participants took two or three yoga classes per week, and practiced coherent breathing, their symptoms of depression decreased. Though both groups (those who took two classes per week and those who took three classes per week) saw an improvement in their symptoms of depression, participants who took three classes per week saw more improvement.

Yoga has long been a beneficial practice to relieve back pain and other pains associated with conditions like arthritis, as well as stress. Studies like this one are encouraging for those who suffer from more severe mental health concerns like MDD.

For anyone interested in becoming a yoga teacher and helping others improve both their physical and mental health, LHAA offers training that is focused, therapeutic, and alignment based. Visit our program pages to get more information on our yoga teacher training and advanced yoga teacher studies programs.

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