By John Salak –
Yoga is hot and getting hotter all the time for lots of good reasons. Between 2010 and 2021 its popularity grew by more than 60 percent so that today there are more than 300 million practitioners worldwide, including about 35 million in the U.S. alone, according to TheGoodBody.com.
People flock to this ancient practice, which comes in several forms, for its well-prescribed yoga benefits, many of which are supported by reputable research. John Hopkins Medicine, for example, reports that yoga is clinically proven to enhance strength, balance and flexibility, ease arthritis symptoms, improve heart health, build energy, reduce stress and foster relaxation.
Recent research by Massachusetts General Hospital now claims that yoga, particularly hot yoga, goes even further by helping adults suffering from moderate-to-severe depression, ultimately making it a viable treatment.
In a clinical trial over eight weeks, 80 participants who suffered from depression were broken down into two groups. One group received 90-minute sessions of Bikram yoga practiced in 105 degrees Fahrenheit, while the other group was put on a waitlist. The members of the first group took at least two classes of Bikram yoga a week and averaged just over 10 sessions during the trial.
When compared to those in the waitlist group, participants involved in these hot yoga classes reported a significant reduction in depressive symptoms as assessed through the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS-CR) scale.
Researchers specifically found that almost 60 percent of yoga participants had a 50 percent or greater decrease in symptoms compared with 6.3 percent of waitlist participants. Perhaps more importantly, approximately 45 percent of the yoga practitioners had such low IDS-CR scores that their depression was considered in remission. Less than seven percent of the participants in the waitlisted group improved this much.
Participants taking just one hot yoga class a week even saw a reduction in depression symptoms.
“Yoga and heat-based interventions could potentially change the course for treatment for patients with depression by providing a non-medication-based approach with additional physical benefits as a bonus,” explained lead author Maren Nyer, Ph.D., director of Yoga Studies at the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We are currently developing new studies with the goal of determining the specific contributions of each element—heat and yoga—to the clinical effects we have observed in depression.”