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Yoga
Brown RP, Gerbarg PL. Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I-neurophysiologic model. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine.  2005; 1(1):189-201.

Yogic breathing is a unique method for balancing the autonomic nervous system and influencing stress-related disorders.  Many studies demonstrate the positive effects of yogic breathing on brain function and physiology, although how it facilitates these changes is not clearly understood.  Sudarshan Kriya yoga, a sequence of specific breathing techniques (ujjayi, bhastrika, and Sudarshan Kriya) has been used to alleviate anxiety, depression, everyday stress, post-traumatic stress, and stress-related medical illnesses. Part I of this series presents a neurophysiologic theory of the effects of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga.

Brown RP, Gerbarg PL.  Sudarshan Kriya Yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression. Part II--clinical applications and guidelines. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine.  2005; 11(4):711-7.

Part II of this series reviews clinical studies, direct clinical observations, and guidelines for the safe and effective use of yoga breath techniques.  There is sufficient evidence to consider Sudarshan Kriya Yoga to be a beneficial, low-risk, low-cost addition to the treatment of stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, stress-related medical illnesses, and substance abuse.   Yoga techniques enhance well-being, mood, attention, mental focus, and stress tolerance. Proper training by a skilled teacher and a 30-minute practice every day will maximize the benefits.

Pilkington K, Kirkwood G, Rampes H, Richardson J.  Yoga for depression: the research evidence. Journal of Affective Disorders.  2005;89(1-3):13-24.  

This meta-analysis included five randomized controlled trials using different forms of yoga interventions with patients who had mild to severe depression.   All trials reported positive findings. Overall, yoga appears to have potential benefit in the treatment of depressive disorders and further study is warranted.

Sharma VK, Das S, Mondal S, et al.  Effect of Sahaj Yoga on depressive disorders.
Indian Journal of Physiology & Pharmacology.  2005; 49(4):462-8.

Sahaj Yoga is a meditative technique found to have beneficial effects in some psychosomatic illnesses. In this study 30 patients diagnosed with major depression were randomly divided into two groups: Group 1 practiced Sahaj Yoga for eight weeks and took conventional antidepressants. Group 2 only received conventional antidepressants.  There was significant improvement in depression scores in both groups. However, improvements in patients practicing Sahaj Yoga were significantly higher than in Group 2 patients. The number of patients who went into remission after two months of intervention was also significantly higher in those practicing yoga.

Streeter CC, Whitfield TH, Owen L, et al. Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety, and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study.  J Altern Complement Med. 16(11):1145-52, 2010.

The practice of yoga postures is associated with increased levels of brain GABA, the brain's primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, which is reduced in depression and anxiety. In this study participants with no significant medical/psychiatric disorders were randomized to yoga or a metabolically matched walking intervention for 60 minutes 3 times a week for 12 weeks. The yoga group reported greater improvement in mood and greater decreases in anxiety than the walking group.  There were positive correlations between improved mood and decreased anxiety and thalamic GABA levels. This is the first study to demonstrate that increased thalamic GABA levels are associated with improved mood and decreased anxiety. Given that pharmacologic agents that increase the activity of the GABA system are prescribed to improve mood and decrease anxiety, the possible role of GABA in mediating the beneficial effects of yoga on mood and anxiety warrants further study.

Uebelacker LA, Tremont G, Epstein-Lubow G, et al.  Brown University.  Open trial of Vinyasa yoga for persistently depressed individuals: evidence of feasibility and acceptability.  Behavior Modification.  34(3):247-64, 2010

This study assessed the acceptability and feasibility of Vinyasa yoga as an additional treatment for depressed patients who were not responding adequately to antidepressant medication. The authors recruited 11 participants in 1 month for an 8-week open trial of yoga classes. Ten participants completed follow-up assessments, 9 of 10 were positive about their experience, and all provided feedback about what was and was not helpful about yoga, as well as barriers to class attendance. Over the 2-month period, participants showed significant decreases in depression symptoms and significant increases in an aspect of mindfulness and in behavior activation. This pilot study provided support for continuing to investigate Vinyasa yoga as an adjunct treatment for depression.


Woolery A, Myers H, Sternlieb B, Zeltzer L.  A yoga intervention for young adults with elevated symptoms of depression. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine. 2005; 10(2):60-3.

This randomized controlled study examined the effects of a short-term Iyengar yoga course vs. a wait-list control group on mood in 28 young adults with mild  depression.  Subjects in the yoga group attended two 1-hour Iyengar yoga classes each week for 5 consecutive weeks. The classes emphasized yoga postures thought to alleviate depression (particularly back bends, standing poses, and inversions). Subjects who participated in the yoga course showed significant decreases in self-reported symptoms of depression, trait anxiety, negative mood and fatigue.
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