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Potential long-term effects of a mind-body intervention for women with major depressive disorder: sustained mental health improvements with a pilot yoga intervention

Research paper by Patricia Anne Kinser, R.K. Elswick, Susan Korstein. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing. 2014;28(6):377-383. doi: 10.1016/j.apnu.2014.08.014 


 

This randomized, controlled study evaluated the feasibility, acceptability, and effects of a gentle Hatha yoga intervention for women with major depressive disorder (MDD). Data gathered 1 year after an 8-week yoga intervention program suggested that yoga offers sustained positive effects on MDD, with subjects showing improvements in depression, ruminations (persistent negative thoughts), stress, anxiety, and health-related quality-of-life outcomes measures.

For the initial 8-week study (see Kinser et al, 2013 in the Yoga Science Research Guide), participants were randomized into one of two groups: a yoga group or a health education group (control). The yoga group received weekly 75-minute yoga sessions (in local yoga studios) and were asked to practice daily at home. (A DVD and class handouts were provided). Yoga sessions included pranayama, gentle asana, meditation, and deep relaxation. Subjects in the control group received weekly 75-minute health education sessions (including lectures, videos, and discussions) on topics such as sleep, nutrition, heart health, and depression. These sessions were lead by registered nurses.

Data revealed that subjects in both groups experienced decreases in depression scores over time, but the decreases were statistically significant only in yoga subjects.

Of the 27 participants enrolled in the study, 18 completed the 8-week intervention. Nine of these participants were available for 1-year follow-up. Data revealed that subjects in both groups experienced decreases in depression scores over time, but the decreases were statistically significant only in yoga subjects. The yoga subjects also showed a significant decrease in rumination scores.

Furthermore, the positive effects of the yoga intervention appeared to be sustained whether or not subjects continued with yoga on their own post-study. The importance of this finding was stressed by the investigators, who noted that interventions (pharmacologic or non-pharmacologic) for MDD rarely offer sustained benefit, particularly after treatment is discontinued.



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