By Amy Norton. Many people who follow home confinement orders have turned to online yoga as a way to manage stress. And a new review of the research suggests that it might be a good idea. Read: Extra weight could mean more joint pain
The review of 19 clinical trials focused on the benefits of yoga for people with mental health conditions ranging from anxiety disorders and alcohol dependence to schizophrenia. Overall, she found that yoga classes helped alleviate depression symptoms for those patients.
And while the trials focused on in-person classes for individuals who had formal diagnoses, there are broader implications, the researchers said.
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“Without a doubt, if you’ve thought about trying yoga, now is an excellent time to take advantage of the opportunity,” said Jacinta Brinsley, lead author of the review and a doctoral candidate at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of South Australia , in Adelaide.
Now, yoga instructors around the world offer live streaming classes, she noted, and people have a chance to find something that’s right for them in their homes.
Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right type [de yoga]”Brinsley said.” Enjoyment is an excellent indicator that this is the right choice. “
In general, physical activity is a recommended part of managing mental health disorders, according to Brinsley. Yoga, which combines physical movement with breathing exercises, meditation and other mindfulness practices, has been the subject of many studies.
Some have found that it can alleviate depression. That being said, there are questions.
There are many styles of yoga. Brinsley said it is unclear whether any one in particular offers more or less benefit for depression symptoms: how much they offer depends on specific points about physical movement. Is it vigorous or smooth? Should the practice include breathing exercises or meditation?
But overall, Brinsley said, there is evidence that both exercise alone and mindfulness practices alone can help alleviate depression.
So we infer that these practices, combined in yoga, are effective, “he said.
The review, published in the May 18 online issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, covered 19 clinical trials from six countries. All evaluated the effects of yoga in people diagnosed with psychiatric conditions such as major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol use disorders, and schizophrenia.
Specific points varied, but each yoga program consisted of at least 50 percent physical movement. Participants were randomly assigned to add yoga to their usual treatment, to a yoga waiting list, or to continue only with their standard treatment.
Overall, Brinsley’s team found that people who practiced yoga showed a greater reduction in depression symptoms than those in the comparison group.
The researchers said the average effect was “moderate,” not dramatic. And the studies were short-term, lasting a couple of months, overall. So it’s not clear how long the benefits last, according to Brinsley.
But he noted that, like other therapies, yoga is not a quick fix.
“We often don’t take drug treatment for 12 weeks and we are already cured, so we need to think about exercise and yoga and mindfulness the same way,” Brinsley said. “It is not necessarily a cure. To get the benefits, you will have to keep doing it.”
Terri Miles is a registered yoga instructor from Culpeper, Virginia, who specializes in working with cancer patients and trauma survivors.
He agreed that consistency is essential, and emphasized that the practice of yoga does not have to involve the “stunts” that are characteristic of some styles.
“Just the simple act of breathing properly can make a difference. You see it in people’s faces,” said Miles, a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists.
Even a series of simple poses, she said, can be powerful, in part because it “distracts the mind from what’s bothering it,” and also because of the movement itself.
“If I tell someone to ‘feel the stability of their feet’ and they feel it, this sends the message to the brain that it’s okay. That it’s down to earth,” said Miles.
He agreed that now would be a good time to find yoga opportunities online, and that some free classes are being offered. Miles urged potential students to research the instructor’s credentials to find out if their yoga style is what they are looking for.
But he also encouraged people to keep an open mind.
“If you try a class and it works, great,” said Miles. “If not, maybe it’s the style, or the instructor. Or maybe he wasn’t ready that day because he didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Try again tomorrow.”