More studies are using randomized controlled trials to look at the relationship between yoga and depression. Randomized controlled trials are the best ways to verify study results. According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, recent studies suggest that yoga can:

  • reduce the impact of stress
  • help with anxiety and depression
  • be a self-soothing technique similar to meditation, relaxation, and exercise
  • improve energy.

Yoga is a physical exercise that involves different body poses, breathing techniques, and meditation. The therapy may help with depression and your symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating or loss of energy.

Many people use yoga therapy to manage:

• mental and emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, or depression
• conditions and disorders, such as ongoing low back pain
• chronic or long-term pain
• overall health and well-being.

You can find yoga classes at fitness studios, hospitals, and local community centers. The classes can be gentle or challenging, depending on the style.

How yoga therapy works
Dr. Mason Turner of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group says yoga therapy “can be very powerful in the treatment of depression.” Even if yoga isn’t your forte, the combination of meditation and physical movement provide two important elements for relieving depression. Meditation helps bring a person into the present moment and allows them to clear their minds. Controlled, focused movements also help strengthen the body-mind connection.

Breathing exercises are effective in reducing depressive symptoms, according to one study. You may find yoga helpful as the exercise focuses on deep, controlled breathing.

To improve mood and relaxation
As exercise, yoga is a natural way to increase serotonin production. According to the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience Trusted Source, serotonin production plays a role in the treatment of depression. Serotonin is believed to play a major role in happiness. One study Trusted Source also suggests people with depression have lower serotonin levels.

Yoga is also especially helpful because of its gentle, calming, and fluid nature. Each pose is flexible, so people of all levels can practice. Your instructor will emphasize breathing, concentration, and smooth movement. They’ll also encourage you to focus on positive images to calm the body and mind.

To reduce stress and anxiety
Yoga also increases your heart rate variability (HRV), or change in time between heart beats, by increasing the relaxation response over the stress response in the body. A high HRV means that your body is better at self-monitoring or adapting, particularly to stress.

Styles of yoga
You may be familiar with some yoga poses, such as standing forward bend, but different styles of yoga vary in speed and approach. You can explore which style of yoga works best at a local studio or community center.

Style of yogaDescription
Hathaincorporates gentler and slower paced movements, best suited for beginners
Vinyasalinks breathing and movement together, pacing starts slow and gradually get faster
Bikramtakes place in a hot room where you practice a set series of moves to help blood flow
Ashtangafocuses on quick, sequenced poses and is more physically demanding
Hotis in a heated room but without set poses
Iyengaruses props, such as blocks, chairs, and straps, to help you find proper body alignment
Kundalinicombines repetitive exercises with intense breathing for a more physically demanding exercise
Restorativemoves slowly through five or six poses for an hour to help you relax
Yinaims to restore length and elasticity to your muscles through seated and back poses

What are the pros and cons of yoga therapy?
Yoga complements traditional therapies, such as medication and psychotherapy. But it’s not meant to be a sole treatment.

Yoga is

  • generally safe when practiced properly
  • beneficial for people who want to improve concentration
  • available in many styles for all levels.

Yoga can be

  • challenging for beginners and people with limited flexibility
  • uncomfortable, depending on the pose
  • expensive, depending on the studio.

Studies show that yoga therapy can help with stress, anxiety, and depression. Yoga is a gentle exercise that incorporates both meditation and controlled, physical movements. The focus on deep breathing and stretching your body is effective for relieving the symptoms of depression, such as sleep troubles, pain, and a loss of energy.

No matter which style of yoga you choose, you can adapt the poses to suit your level. Many studios, hospitals, and local community centers offer yoga classes. But yoga can be expensive, especially if you want to practice every day. Thankfully, many instructional videos are available online, such as on YouTube, and through apps.