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Millions of people participate in yoga classes to enhance their muscle strength and flexibility. But yoga may also be used as a complimentary treatment for depression, according to David Shapiro, PhD, a professor on the Department of Psychiatry and. Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).
“Yoga appears to be a promising intervention for depression. It is cost-effective and easy to implement. Yoga produces many beneficial, emotional, psychological, behavioral and biological effects.”
Yoga offers multiple health benefits, including stress reduction. It also requires sustained attention and concentration, which can help improve brain function. In addition, yoga is beneficial for older adults because some asanas improve muscle strength and balance, which can prevent falls.
Yoga can also help alleviate pain and stiffness, as well as normalize body weight and improve energy levels. And although it is not considered an aerobic exercise, yoga does appear to regulate heart rate and improve circulation, studies reveal. Dr. Shapiro and other UCLA researchers have been studying the effects of lyenger yoga on mood. ”
In lyenger yoga, an attentional focus and emphasis is on increasing awareness through movements, and the activities of muscles and joints and their coordination”
he says. Participants, who were diagnosed with depression and taking antidepressant medication, took a total of 20 lyenger yoga classes over an eight-week period. Results showed that the yoga classes imparted an additional improvement in their depression symptoms and also in measures of anxiety, expression of anger, neurotic symptoms, lack of motivation caused by emotional difficulties and low-frequency heart rate variability.
“Thus, participation in yoga did not, in effect, target depression only, but also affected psychological and biological processes indicative of improved mental health and more effective social behavior”
says Dr. Shapiro.