A new study shows that a breathing-based meditation technique helps people with severe depression in whom even medication has no effect.
More than half of those taking antidepressants do not feel a complete improvement in their mood. For this very reason, various other strategies are being tried to combat depression. So did a group of American neuropsychologists: they examined the effect of a special yoga technique called Sudarshan Kriya.
The technique revolves around specific rhythmic breathing exercises that bring people into a deep and calm state. Previous studies suggest that yoga and other breathing techniques stimulate the nervous system to reduce stress hormones.
The current study invited 25 patients, all of whom suffering from depression despite having taken antidepressants for more than eight weeks. For eight weeks, the participants were divided into a meditation group and a "waiting list" control group (who were still receiving training after the study ended).
Participants in the meditation group received several training sessions in the first week, including Sudarshan Kriya yoga, sitting meditation and classes about stress. The weeks that followed were filled with follow-up sessions and home exercises.
The meditation group showed a significant improvement in so-called HDRS scores compared with the control group. On average, the score before treatment was 22.0 (indicating severe depression), but after eight weeks of yoga, the score was reduced to 10.27. The control group showed no improvement.
The researchers are now focusing on the next step in this line of research: in what ways does this intervention affect the structure and functioning of the brain in people with depression?
This research was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
Author: Job van den Hurk
Translated by: Joyce Burger