Gentle Hatha Yoga for major depressive disorder helped women alleviate depression and ruminations (Archives of Psychiatric Nursing).

Gentle Hatha Yoga for Major Depressive Disorder

Gentle Hatha Yoga for Major Depressive Disorder


Depression is one of the most common mental health issues in the U.S. and around the world. Sufferers are twice as likely to be female.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • feeling worthless
  • brooding ruminations
  • and thoughts of suicide

What is Gentle Hatha Yoga?

A Gentle Hatha Yoga class consists of poses suited for beginners, this is the same style prescribed in the yoga for major depressive disorder study. The instructor encourages open communication about any discomfort, so he can recommend modifications to make his students feel more comfortable.

The Gentle Hatha Yoga Students

The 27 women in this 8-week Gentle Hatha Yoga study took the initiative to contact the researchers after seeing flyers advertising the study. Just like you, these ladies felt motivated to try and help themselves relieve the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). All yoga beginners, the women had not practiced yoga or meditation for more than 1 month in the past 5 years. Additionally, each woman was experiencing moderate to severe depression, but did not suffer from psychosis or mania.

Yoga for Major Depressive Disorder: The Prescription

The researchers placed the women, with an average age of 43, into a yoga or a control group. The Gentle Hatha Yoga group attended one, 75-minute group class weekly and were asked to complete a 20-minute at home practice daily with a DVD.

The group class began with setting positive intentions based on weekly themes and breathing exercises (pranayama), followed by a sequence of Hatha Yoga poses suited for yoga beginners. The class closed with a session of guided meditation known as Yoga Nidra and finally the corpse pose (shavasana) as final relaxation. To reduce the opportunity for negative thoughts, the amount of total silence during final relaxation gradually increased over the eight weeks.

The control group completed a Health and Wellness Program consisting of weekly 75-minute classes, where they watched videos and listened to lectures.

Does Gentle Hatha Yoga Alleviate Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder?

The researchers found, Gentle Hatha Yoga for major depressive disorder is effective for alleviating some symptoms and is sometimes more effective at relieving these symptoms than a Health and Wellness program.

The yoga group was successful despite that on any given week about 40% to  50% of the women did not complete the prescribed dosage of yoga. This is good news, because we all know how difficult it can be to fit yoga into our schedule every day.

  • Ruminations – The Gentle Hatha Yoga group showed a “unique trend towards decreased ruminations” that did not appear in the Health and Wellness Program group. According to the American Psychological Association, ruminating is mulling over an issue at length and ruminations are a predictor of depression.
  • Women in the Gentle Hatha Yoga group also experienced increased feelings of connectedness and felt as if yoga was a helpful coping strategy, which did not occur for women in the Health and Wellness Program group.
  • Depression – Both the Gentle Hatha Yoga group and the Health and Wellness Program group experienced a significant decrease in depression, with their level of depression dropping from moderately severe to minimal.

References for Gentle Hatha Yoga for Major Depressive Disorder

1. Kinser, P., Bourguignon, C., Whaley, D., Hauenstein, E., & Taylor, A. (2013). Feasibility, Acceptability, and Effects of Gentle Hatha Yoga for Women With Major Depression. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 27, 137-147.

2. Law, B. M. Probing the Depression-Rumination Cycle. American Psychological Association.