Anxiety (Panic)/DepressionYoga

Attempting to profile depressed people most likely to respond to yoga

Yoga appears to be a promising intervention for depression, according to researchers from the US, Russia, and Italy in this study.

But can we predict which person is most likely to respond?

First, the details.

  • 37 adults with unipolar major depression in partial remission enrolled in the study, of which 17 participated to the end.
  • Treatment included 20 classes led by senior Iyengar yoga teachers, in 3 courses of 20 yoga classes each.

And, the results.

  • Significant reductions were shown for depression, anger, anxiety, neurotic symptoms and low frequency heart rate variability in the 17 completers.
  • Eleven of the completers achieved remission of their depression at the end of treatment.

OK, but what’s the profile of a “responder” to Iyengar yoga?

  • They had less formal education.
  • Spent many more hours a week in regular exercise.
  • Physiologically, they had higher levels of parasympathetic control of the heart (vagal tone), were more likely to be depressed during stress, and higher baroreflex sensitivity (the ability to control blood pressure).

The bottom line?
The authors concluded: “The significance of the exercise and physiological effects is understandable and suggests that remitters were already disposed to an activity-based treatment, and that from the standpoint of autonomic nervous system functioning they had a greater capacity for emotional regulation.”

In other words, people who enjoy exercise are more likely to get benefit from it.

Interesting, but definitive conclusions based on just 17 people are problematic.

Particularly for the finding regarding education level, the authors state, “The finding of less education for remitters may be in line with a greater disposition toward an activity-based rather than an educational or verbal therapy.”

Maybe, but this is supposition as they fail to cite supporting research. In contrast, The Minnesota Heart Survey reported that higher educational status, as well as male gender, younger age, and employment were characteristic of greater participation in physical activity.

9/23/07 14:23 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.