More than 15 million Americans practice yoga. It is a twenty-seven billion dollar a year industry in the US. Why is yoga so popular? According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 58% of those who practice yoga do so for mental and physical well-being and 16% use yoga to treat specific conditions. Yoga is increasingly being studied as a medical treatment for various conditions and the preliminary results are that it is an effective treatment for several disorders, including depression.

The National Institutes of Health define yoga in the following way:

Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Like other meditative movement practices used for health purposes, various styles of yoga typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.

The physical and mental benefits of yoga are undeniable. Many people use yoga to help with physical ailments such as back pain. However, yoga is also shown to have significant benefits for many psychological disorders, such as depression. Yoga Journal reports:

Yoga is being increasingly recognized as a useful tool for relieving symptoms of clinical depression. While doctors will often prescribe pharmaceuticals or recommend psychotherapy for patients, yoga can accomplish even deeper goals. Use yoga for depression by helping your students quiet their restless minds and connect them with an inner source of calm and joy.

Given that approximately 9% of the population suffers from depression at any given time, yoga could make a significant impact on millions of people’s lives.

While there hasn’t been enough research yet to prove definitively that yoga remediates or reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety or other psychological disorders, the results of the research that has been done are promising. Medical Daily suggests:

Though there aren’t too many studies on this yet, one study found that “several studies of exercise and yoga have demonstrated therapeutic effectiveness superior to no-activity controls and comparable with established depression and anxiety treatments” such as cognitive behavioral therapy, sertraline, and imipramine. “High-energy exercise and frequent aerobic exercise reduce symptoms of depression more than less frequent or low-energy exercise. For anxiety disorders, exercise and yoga have also shown positive effects.”

With so many complementary practices available to treat depression and other psychological disorders, talk with your doctor about alternatives to pharmaceuticals. Yoga can make you healthier, stronger, and more relaxed and help you do so in a community of people who care about you and your recovery. Consider adding yoga to augment psychotherapy and “stretch” your depression treatment into high gear.