A recent randomized controlled clinical trial has shown that heated yoga can significantly reduce depressive symptoms in individuals with moderate-to-severe depression. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, suggests that heated yoga could be a feasible therapeutic option for people suffering from depression.
The trial, conducted by investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), included 80 participants who were randomly assigned to either a heated yoga group or a waitlist group. The yoga group engaged in 90-minute sessions of Bikram yoga, practiced in a room heated to 105°F, while the waitlist group received the yoga intervention after a waiting period.
At the end of the eight-week trial, participants in the yoga group showed a significantly greater reduction in depressive symptoms compared to those in the waitlist group, as measured by the clinician-rated Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS-CR) scale. Additionally, 59.3% of yoga participants experienced a 50% or greater reduction in symptoms, compared to only 6.3% of waitlist participants. Furthermore, 44% of the yoga group achieved IDS-CR scores indicating remission of depression, in contrast to 6.3% of the waitlist group.
Even participants who completed only half of the prescribed yoga sessions still showed a reduction in depressive symptoms, suggesting that heated yoga sessions once a week could still be beneficial.
Lead author Maren Nyer, PhD, emphasized the potential of yoga and heat-based interventions as non-medication alternatives for depression treatment. Nyer stated that further research is needed to determine the specific contributions of heat and yoga to the observed clinical effects in depression.
Participants in the study reported positive experiences during the heated yoga sessions and did not experience any serious adverse effects associated with the intervention.
Senior author David Mischoulon, MD, PhD, stressed the need for further research to explore whether heated yoga offers unique benefits beyond non-heated yoga for the treatment of depression. This research could be particularly relevant given the emerging evidence supporting whole-body hyperthermia as a treatment for major depressive disorder.
In conclusion, the study suggests that heated yoga could be a promising therapeutic option for individuals with moderate-to-severe depression. Further research is needed to understand the specific contributions of heat and yoga to the observed effects and to explore whether heated yoga offers unique benefits for depression treatment.