We’ve already reviewed the neuropsychological benefits of meditation as a whole. Now it’s time to look at the emotional benefits of yoga meditation. Many people diagnosed with depression also present with a variety of other medical conditions such as Type II diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome. We know that physical inactivity is associated with higher levels of depression. We also know that, for treatments to work, they need to be cost effective and readily available.

With that in mind, Jacinta Brinsley, an exercise physiologist, and her research group at the University of South Australia, Adelaide set out to find evidence-based treatments for depression that involved physical movement. In this case, the researchers chose to focus on studies that utilized movement-based yoga, or asana. They reviewed the results of nineteen studies involving a total of more than 1,000 patients. While the patients in the studies had been diagnosed with a variety of mental health disorders including depression, alcohol dependence, schizophrenia and PTSD, to narrow the scope of their research, they concentrated on reduction of the symptoms of depression.

What they discovered was:

  • Participating in a movement-based yoga program did help to reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Those patients who practiced more frequently enjoyed greater symptom reduction; the more times per week they engaged in the practice, the better their outcomes.
  • The length of the yoga session was not critical for symptom reduction.

Interestingly, although they chose to focus on reduction of depressive symptoms, their review revealed that the largest effect was actually found in the patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, even though only roughly 25% of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia report experiencing depression as well.

In the United States we have seen a marked rise in requests for mental health treatment over the past several months. Now more than ever it is imperative that we continue to engage in self-care activities as well.  As the pandemic continues and many of us are restricted in our options for physical activity, yoga is an inexpensive and easily attainable form of physical activity that has physical, emotional, spiritual and neurocognitive benefits. I really do encourage you to try it.


Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.