Yoga Practice Relieves Depression

Yoga Practice Relieves Depression

by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.


A recent study revealed that yoga could be helpful for women experiencing depression (  It also improves “heart rate variability,” a measure of how much a person’s heart rate varies with exercise, which is an indication of health.

The study divided 26 depressed women in a group of yoga practice, or a control group of no change in activity level.  All 26 were clearly identified as depressed on a widely used depression inventory.  The yoga group engaged in a 12-week program, twice a week for one hour each session.  The yoga involved breathing exercises, yoga poses, and meditation/relaxation lying down on a mat.  The control group was told not to engage in any yoga practice and to continue with their usual level of physical activity.  Heart rate, depressive symptoms, and perceived stress were measured before and after the 12-week period.

The yoga group reported significantly reduced depressive symptoms and perceived stress.  They also had greater variability in heart rate between states of activity/exercise and resting; in other words, their heart rate increased more when exercising, and decreased more and more rapidly when resting.  This greater variability is a sign of aerobic health.  The control group reported no changes in the 12 weeks in depression, perceived stress, or heart rate variability.

This clinician, a yoga practitioner for over 10 years now, has also noted that yoga at times can prompt some deeper emotions.  Certain poses seem to stimulate long-held, sometimes intense emotions, often released as tears and powerful emotions.  Practicing yoga, as an adjunct to psychotherapy is a powerfully helpful, supportive combination, for many people, including those experiencing depression.

Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA.  A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at (310) 539-2772 or


Copyright 2018 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

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