Yoga Improves Stress Responses and Mood

“Yoga has a sly, clever way of short circuiting the mental patterns that cause anxiety.” – Baxter Bell


Depression and anxiety are great scourges on humankind. They affect millions of people worldwide decreasing productivity and increasing misery. The exact etiology of these disorders is unknown. But, modern research is slowly unraveling the mystery. One promising line of inquiry is investigating the linkage of depression and anxiety with the physiological responses to stress including stress hormone responses and the inflammatory response. Depression has been long known to be associated with increased stress hormone activity and increased inflammatory response. This raises the question as to what role the stress response plays in the development of depression.


The most common treatment for depression is antidepressant drugs. They are effective for some people and are also known to reduce the stress response and inflammation. But, they are not effective for everyone and they can have some unpleasant side effects. So, alternative treatment for depression and anxiety that are safe, effective and with few side effects are needed.


Yoga practice has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression (see and to reduce stress and anxiety (see Yoga has also been shown to reduce inflammation (see and and immune system balance (see So, it would seem that the practice of yoga is potentially an alternative to antidepressant drug treatment for depression.


In today’s Research News article “A systematic review of randomised control trials on the effects of yoga on stress measures and mood

Pascoe and colleagues review 24 randomized controlled trials investigating the effectiveness of yoga practice for depression and anxiety and their linkages to the stress and inflammatory responses. They found that the published literature provided evidence that yoga practice reduces depression and anxiety and the stress and inflammatory responses.


In particular, Pascoe and colleagues report that the evidence suggests that yoga practice reduces anxiety and depression and at the same time reduces the nervous systems responses to stress as indicated by reductions in heart rate and blood pressure and by reductions in the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. There was also reported to be a decrease in cytokine levels suggesting a decrease in the inflammatory response. Hence, yoga practice appears to be effective for anxiety and depression and reduces the associated stress and inflammatory responses.


Since, changes in depression and anxiety occurred at the same time as changes in stress and inflammatory responses, it strengthens the case of a causal link between the two. More research is need to further investigate this promising linkage.


So, yoga practice is a safe and effective treatment for anxiety and depression while reducing stress and inflammation.


“The yoga mat is a good place to turn when talk therapy and antidepressants aren’t enough.” – Amy Weintraub


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

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