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Yoga can help depression patients

An hour of yoga three times a week boosts the mood and immunity of people being treated for depression, shows pathbreaking research at Bangalore’s National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS). Sanchita Sharma reports.

delhi Updated: Feb 18, 2011 00:58 IST
Sanchita Sharma

An hour of yoga three times a week boosts the mood and immunity of people being treated for depression, shows pathbreaking research at Bangalore’s National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS).

In India, one in four families has at least one member with a behavioural or mental disorder, which affects one in 15 (6 to 7%) people. About 1-2% of the population suffers from mental illness severe enough to need psychiatric treatment, with 20% of these patients having more than one disorder.

“Preliminary findings of our three-year study show a combination of yoga and meditation lowered depression in patients, as supposed to meditation alone,” said Dr Naveen GH, a psychiatrist and senior research scholar, Advanced Centre for Yoga, NIMHANS. Changes in mood were assessed using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the standard multiple-choice questionnaire psychiatrists use to rate severity of depression.

Apart from the symptoms, the project is also tracking neuroplastic changes in the patients’ brain. “MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and MRS (MR Spectroscopy) are being used to measure volume and chemical changes that improve signaling in the brain in the yoga group,” said Dr Naveen.

A parallel programme has also shown that relaxation techniques and yoga postures (asanas) help caregivers of schizophrenics cope with the stress of looking after a mentally ill patient 24x7. “A two-year study (2007-09) of training caregivers of patients admitted for treating schizophrenia showed that doing yoga for an hour three times a week lowered stress. Now we have a project for caregivers who live with schizophrenics who are being treated while living at home,” said Sumathi Vidyendaran, senior research fellow leading the study.