The findings were presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.
"Yoga has become increasingly popular in the West, and many new yoga practitioners cite stress-reduction and other mental health concerns as their primary reason for practicing," said Dr. Lindsey Hopkins, who led a session on yoga and depression research, in a statement.
Hopkins emphasized, however, that the research is still preliminary, and at present, they can only recommend yoga as a complementary method. While empirical evidence is big on its potential, it could only be proposed in conjunction with standard therapeutic approaches, she explained.
The team conducted a study that comprised 23 male veterans who participated in twice-weekly yoga classes for eight weeks. They practiced hatha yoga, which emphasizes physical exercise as well as meditative and breathing techniques.
Subjects who started out with increased depression scores had a significant reduction in depression symptoms after the eight-week period.
In the second study, Bikram or heated yoga on 52 women ages 25 to 45 sharply decreased symptoms compared to a control group that did not undergo twice-weekly classes for eight weeks.
Another study on 29 individuals, which also focused on at least twice-a-week Bikram yoga for eight weeks, eased symptoms substantially while upping quality of life, optimism, as well as physical and cognitive function.
Yoga's potential in helping treat mental health issues has become so promising that the U.S. military is planning to craft its own yoga treatment programs.
According to Forbes, there remain a number of important considerations before yoga becomes a standard form of treatment, including how much yoga is necessary, what type, and for how long it should be done.
"Today there is too little evidence to say anything about which type of yoga is more effective and which dose or duration of yoga is effective," said Nina Vollbehr, coauthor of two studies.
The report also broached the question of who will best administer yoga for patients of clinical depression. Will it be a depression treatment-trained yoga teacher or a psychologist, and should a severely depressed adult be put under the care of the former or the latter?
A separated study from June noted yoga's potential in helping people deal with back pain, where more than 300 racially diverse and predominantly low-income participants suffering from chronic back pain were included.
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