Yogic breathing helps fight major depression

v:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

Yogic breathing helps fight major depression, study shows


November 22, 2016


Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania


A breathing-based
meditation practice known as Sudarshan Kriya yoga helped alleviate severe
depression in people who did not fully respond to antidepressant treatments,
reports a new study.

A breathing-based
meditation practice known as Sudarshan Kriya yoga helped alleviate severe
depression in people who did not fully respond to antidepressant treatments,
reports a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry from
researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of
Pennsylvania. The study bolsters the science behind the use of controlled yogic
breathing to help battle depression.

In a randomized,
controlled pilot study, led by Anup Sharma, MD, PhD, a Neuropsychiatry research
fellow in the department of Psychiatry at Penn, researchers found significant
improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety in medicated patients with
major depressive disorder (MDD) who participated in the breathing technique
compared to medicated patients who did not partake. After two months, the yoga
group cut its mean Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) score by several
points, while the control group showed no improvements. HDRS is the most widely
used clinician-administered depression assessment that scores mood, interest in
activities, energy, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of guilt, among other

More than half of the
41 million Americans who take antidepressants do not fully respond. Add-on
therapies are often prescribed to enhance the effects of the drugs in these
patients, but they typically offer limited additional benefits and come with
side effects that can curb use, prolonging the depressive episode. What’s more,
patients who don’t fully respond to antidepressants are especially at risk of

“With such a
large portion of patients who do not fully respond to antidepressants, it’s
important we find new avenues that work best for each person to beat their
depression,” Sharma said. “Here, we have a promising, lower-cost
therapy that could potentially serve as an effective, non-drug approach for
patients battling this disease.”

The meditation
technique, which is practiced in both a group setting and at home, includes a
series of sequential, rhythm-specific breathing exercises that bring people
into a deep, restful, and meditative state: slow and calm breaths alternated
with fast and stimulating breaths.

“Sudarshan Kriya
yoga gives people an active method to experience a deep meditative state that’s
easy to learn and incorporate in diverse settings,” Sharma said.

In past studies, the
practice has demonstrated a positive response in patients with milder forms of
depression, depression due to alcohol dependence, and in patients with MDD;
however, there are no clinical studies investigating its use for depression in
an outpatient setting. Past studies suggest that yoga and other controlled
breathing techniques can potentially adjust the nervous system to reduce stress
hormones. Overall, the authors also note, well-designed studies that evaluate
the benefits of yoga to treat depression are lacking, despite increased
interest in the ancient Indian practice. Millions of Americans participate in
some form of yoga every year.

In the study,
researchers enrolled 25 patients suffering from MDD who were depressed, despite
more than eight weeks of antidepressant medication treatment. The medicated
patients were randomized to either the breathing intervention group or the
“waitlist” control group for eight weeks. (The waitlist group was
offered the yoga intervention after the study). During the first week,
participants completed a six-session program, which featured Sudarshan Kriya
yoga in addition to yoga postures, sitting meditation, and stress education.
For weeks two through eight, participants attended weekly Sudarshan Kriya yoga
follow-up sessions and completed a home practice version of the technique.

Patients in the
Sudarshan Kriya yoga group showed a significantly greater improvement in HDRS
scores compared to patients in the waitlist group. With a mean baseline HDRS
score of 22.0 (indicating severe depression at the beginning of the study), the
group that completed the breathing technique for the full two months improved
scores by 10.27 points on average, compared to the waitlist group, which showed
no improvements. Patients in the yoga group also showed significant mean
reductions in total scores of the self-reported Beck Depression (15.48 point
improvement) and Beck Anxiety Inventories (5.19 point improvement), versus the
waitlist control group.

Results of the pilot
study suggest the feasibility and promise of Sudarshan Kriya as an add-on
intervention for MDD patients who have not responded to antidepressants, the
authors wrote. “The next step in this research is to conduct a larger
study evaluating how this intervention impacts brain structure and function in
patients who have major depression,” Sharma said.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Perelman School of Medicine at the
University of Pennsylvania
Note: Content may be edited
for style and length.





/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;