Several new studies have found that yoga may lower depression and emotional eating, if done on a consistent basis. At the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, four separate studies were presented that pointed to similar positive findings about the benefits of yoga.
Lindsey Hopkins at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center primarily examined the effects of Hatha yoga on 23 male veterans. After taking yoga classes twice a week for eight weeks, the subjects noted a decrease in depression and negative thoughts.
Alliant International University's Sarah Shallit found similar results in subjects who tried Bikram yoga, commonly known as hot yoga. For her study, Shallit examined two separate groups of women. In the first, 52 women between the ages of 25 and 45 attended yoga classes twice a week for eight weeks. Half of those women, however, were wait-listed and were not able to take the yoga classes. As you can imagine, the participants who were able to attend yoga saw their depression reduce significantly, while the other group did not.
Her findings didn't end there. When Shallit conducted a similar experiment using a separate group of women, she also noticed an increase in mindfulness and self-compassion among the participants. Not only that, but the subjects found that they were able to control the disordered or emotional eating that had been bothering them before.
Two additional studies, conducted by Maren Nyer and Nina Vollbehr from Massachusetts General Hospital, arrived at similar conclusions using entirely different groups of adults. Ultimately, all of the researchers found that the positive benefits of yoga extend beyond the physical.
Though yoga should not entirely replace treatments for depression prescribed by a doctor, it can certainly help. "At this time, we can only recommend yoga as a complementary approach, likely most effective in conjunction with standard approaches delivered by a licensed therapist," Hopkins explained. "Clearly, yoga is not a cure-all. However, based on empirical evidence, there seems to be a lot of potential."