Yoga Beats Drugs for Depression: Study

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The practice of yoga coupled with deep breathing eased the symptoms of individuals suffering from depression without the use of potentially harmful medication, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Major depressive disorder or MMD, or depression, is a common mood disorder causing sadness and serious mental health issues. Depression affects about 16 million Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers from Boston University Medical Center who conducted the latest study concluded that twice weekly yoga classes in addition to home practice helped brighten the mood of participants not taking antidepressants and for those who claimed their medication wasn’t working.

Since antidepressants come with common side effects such as nausea and insomnia, experts say that this new study offers an exciting and safe alternative treatment to the treatment of this common disorder.

Dr. Delia Chiaramonte, director of education, at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, tells Newsmax Health that this new study solidifies the research that’s already been done examining the benefits of yoga not only for the body, but for the mind as well.

“There are multiple studies that suggest the benefits of yoga in people suffering from depression,” she says. “Exercise has also shown to have significant benefit in alleviating depression as well as meditative practices. Since the practice of yoga combines both physical exercise and meditation, in my opinion, it should be considered as an adjunct treatment for depression.

“It can be used alongside other forms of exercise, cognitive strategies, meditation, guided imagery and in severe cases, antidepressant medication.”

While the participants in the Boston University study practiced two to three 90 minute sessions of Iyengar yoga along with their home practice, experts say that a few minutes of daily practice can produce powerful results.

Iyengar yoga is a style that incorporates precise movements and alignments to balance the body and mind. Kundalini yoga, on the other hand, works on the energy systems of the body and can create equanimity in minutes to help battle depression, says Dr. Gregg Biegel, a certified Kundalini instructor, so you get more bang for your buck.

“People who are diagnosed with depression are almost always prescribed either short term or long term medication to combat their symptoms. But the harmful side effects of these drugs can sometimes make those symptoms worse,” he tells Newsmax Health.

“That’s like putting a Band-Aid on a severed artery. Scientists are now exploring alternative approaches to a healthier lifestyle without medication, and yoga, an ancient art that’s enjoying quite a revival in this stressful society, is a valuable tool.

“Human beings are complex emotional animals. Our behavior is directly controlled by the central nervous system, the autonomic nervous system and our glandular system. When these control systems are out of balance, you experience a wide range of emotions from nervousness to anger to anxiety and depression.”

The practice of yoga, says the expert, can help regulate and balance the body’s control systems by incorporating breathe and movement.

“Within minutes of practicing these physiologically powerful series of movements we call kriyas we can banish the blues and stave off depression,” he says.

While Kundalini yoga is considered to be the “fast track” to establishing equanimity between body and mind, it is important to study with a certified teacher, says Biegel. Since there as many styles of yoga as there are flavors of ice cream, find a class that suits your needs and preferences.

“Practicing yoga on a regular basis combined with eating a healthy diet and enjoying a positive lifestyle provides a natural alternative to medication in battling depression,” says Biegel.

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