Yoga Can Significantly Improve Your Sleep and Help Reduce Anxiety and Depression

It's time to introduce this ancient Indian practice into your mental health treatment plan.

By Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.
March 4, 2020

If you’re someone who enjoys taking a yoga class, then you probably reap some of its many health benefits, like increased flexibility and relaxation. And while we may turn to yoga when we’re feeling stiff or stressed, new research out of the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) has found that it can also help treat anxiety and depression both in the short- and long-term.

The results of the study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, suggest that yoga be a helpful complementary treatment for people living with anxiety and/or depression. Participants were divided into two groups. The first received spent 123 hours doing lyengar yoga and coherent breathing, while the second group only did 87 hours of the same practices. Within a month, participants in both groups experienced significantly improved sleep quality, as well as a reduction in symptoms related to anxiety and depression. 

“Think of it this way, we give medications in different doses in order to enact their effects on the body to varying degrees. Here, we explored the same concept, but used yoga. We call that a dosing study. Past yoga and depression studies have not really delved deeply into this,” corresponding author Chris Streeter, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at BUSM, said in a statement.

Although this study only had 30 participants, the researchers hope that it will lead to additional studies with larger sample sizes. But for now, having another potential treatment for anxiety and depression — especially one where there are so many positive side effects — is a step in the right direction. 


“Providing evidence-based data is helpful in getting more individuals to try yoga as a strategy for improving their health and well-being,” study collaborator and co-author Marisa M. Silveri, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at McLean Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. “These data are crucial for accompanying investigations of underlying neurobiology that will help elucidate ‘how’ yoga works.”

About the writer:

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is a bioethicist and writer as well as an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University. She has written for print and online publications, including The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe AtlanticRolling StoneCNNFodor’sLifehackerReader’s Digest and Playboy.

Outlier Disclaimer

This site is for educational purposes and not a substitute for professional medical care by a doctor or otherwise qualified medical professional. The information provided by Outlier Magazine is on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.

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