Breathing-based yoga may help treat major depression

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Antidepressant medication is considered a primary treatment for major depression, but the drugs fail to fully work for more than half of Americans who use them. Now, researchers suggest a way to boost their effectiveness: breathing-based yoga.

In a pilot study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researchers reveal how 8 weeks of Sudarshan Kriya yoga improved symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who were not responding to antidepressants.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression is the most common mental illness in the United States. In 2014, around 15.7 million adults experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past 12 months.

Symptoms of depression may include persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt or worthlessness, fatigue, loss of interest in activities, reduced appetite, weight loss, and insomnia.

An individual is usually diagnosed with MDD if they experience at least five of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks, and such depressive episodes may commonly occur after a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one or a medical illness.

Antidepressants – such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – are often the first port of call when it comes to treatment for MDD, but patients do not always respond to the drugs. While additional medication may be offered, this can lead to unpleasant side effects that cause patients to stop treatment completely, making relapses more likely.

Now, Dr. Anup Sharma, a neuropsychiatry research fellow at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, and team suggest Sudarshan Kriya yoga may be an effective, low-cost, non-drug approach to help patients who do not respond to antidepressants.

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