The groundbreaking study found that weekly hot yoga practice reduced symptoms of depression by over 50 percent.
There’s a reason yoga has been practiced for centuries. Much more than just a great physical workout, yoga offers a holistic approach to well-being and life in general.
Translating as ‘union’, yoga is an ancient practice that focuses on uniting the body, mind, and spirit. This union helps the practitioner gain strength and gain a broader sense of universal consciousness.
Practitioners from all over the world have extolled the virtues of yoga practice for centuries in helping them regulate their emotions, gain physical strength, and find a sense of balance in their lives.
Now, as if there weren’t already plenty of reasons to love yoga, a new study has found that hot yoga can help beat depression.
What is hot yoga? – a modern take on an ancient practice
Hot yoga is a more modern take on this ancient practice. It was popularised by the controversial yogi Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s.
The traditional Bikram practice is a 90-minute series comprising 26 asanas (physical poses) and two pranayama (breathing exercises) undertaken in a room heated to 105 F (41 C).
Since the 1970s, there have been many variations of this traditional series. Global practitioners have incorporated elements of vinyasa, hatha, ashtanga, yin, pilates, and more.
According to Bikram, the reason for practicing in a heated environment is to prepare the body for movement. Also, to ‘remove impurities’.
Other benefits include increased flexibility and heart health. Also, hot yoga helps practitioners handle stress and regulate their emotions and nervous system.
Now, a new study has offered astonishing results that hot yoga can help beat depression!
Bringing you back to your body – making that mind-body connection
In modern society, with so much pressure to perform, to become ‘successful’ or to fit societal beauty standards, many people feel disconnected from their bodies and physical nature.
Practicing yoga, and specifically hot yoga, forces you to get out of your head and be in your body, to notice your physical sensations and your breath, and respect when your body asks for a rest.
In this way, practitioners cultivate a sense of awareness of their own consciousness and state of existence or ‘being’ aside from external influences.
Many yoga practitioners report being much more in touch with their senses, allowing them a greater experiential sense of the present moment.
Study finds that hot yoga can help beat depression – huge potential for the future of mental health treatment
One of the biggest problems in modern society is the epidemic of mental health problems. Many people report having suffered from anxiety and depression, among other disorders, and suicide rates remain high.
While modern medications have shown some success in helping to treat those suffering from mental health issues, they continuously fall short in offering long-term solutions.
So, the early indications that hot yoga can help beat depression could be a potential game-changer for the future of mental health treatment.
How the study was conducted – promising results
The findings come as the result of an eight-week trial led by Massachusetts General Hospital. The study split 80 adults into two randomised groups.
One group went to one weekly 90-minute hot yoga class. Conversely, the other group was told they were put on a waiting list for treatment.
The study found that almost 60 percent of the hot yoga participants experienced a 50 percent or greater decrease in their depressive symptoms, compared with just 6.3 percent of the waiting list group.
Astonishingly, 44 percent of the hot yoga participants experienced such dramatic improvement that they were no longer classed as depressed.
Speaking on the study, Maren Nyer, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the study, said that yoga and heat-based interventions could potentially change the course for treatment for patients with depression by providing a non-medication-based approach with additional physical benefits as a bonus.
“We are developing new studies with the goal of determining the specific contributions of each element, heat and yoga, to the clinical effects we have observed in depression,” she said.