Hot Yoga Could Have Huge Benefits for People With Depression, a New Study Says

If you want a challenging workout, hot yoga is a popular pick. It’s exactly what it sounds like: yoga routines done in humid, heated rooms, resulting in increased flexibility, a lot of sweat, and — according to a new study — potentially some major mental health relief when it comes to depression.

The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, involved 80 people who were separated into two groups. One group was asked to attend at least two 90-minute hot yoga sessions a week for eight weeks, while the second group (aka the control group) were on a “waitlist.” All the participants took a test to measure their depressive signs and symptoms (called the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology—Clinician Rated, or IDS-CR), both before starting the study and after.

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The results were clear. People in the yoga group showed a “significantly greater” improvement in their depressive symptoms than the control group, with nearly 60 percent of the yoga group showing large decreases in symptoms, compared to just over 6 percent in the control group. In addition, 44 percent of participants in the hot yoga group got depression “scores” so low, their depression could be considered in remission. And it didn’t take a major time commitment; people in the yoga group only participated in an average of 10.1 classes each over the 8-week period.

“Approximately one heated yoga session per week… was associated with significantly greater reduction in depression symptoms,” the researchers concluded.

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Exercise in general has long been recommended for people with depression and other mental health conditions, with one recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine finding that exercise was 1.5 times more effective than medication or therapy at reducing “mild-to-moderate” symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety. Yoga in particular was also noted in a 2017 review “as an alternative treatment or complementary form of therapy for depression and depressive symptoms,” given its effectiveness in many past studies.

This new study on hot yoga is yet more evidence of yoga’s potential for relieving symptoms of depression, while also opening up new potential areas to explore. Maren Nyer, PhD, the lead author of the hot yoga study, told the New York Post that her team is currently developing new studies “with the goal of determining the specific contributions of each element — heat and yoga — to the clinical effects we have observed in depression.”

Hot yoga, Dr. Nyer added, “could potentially change the course for treatment for patients with depression,” as an approach that avoids medication while providing some bonus physical benefits to boot.

Roll out your mat and get started with these YouTube yoga practices you can try right at home:

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