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Long after the coronavirus pandemic is declared over, another health plight could take its place: a mental health crisis, experts have warned. But according to a new study, practicing yoga may help to offset the blues, at least somewhat.
Researchers with the University of South Australia, in a partnership with the Federal University of Santa Maria, UNSW Sydney, Kings College London, and Western Sydney University, conducted what is said to be the first “world study” on the mental health benefits of practicing yoga.
In a meta-analysis of 180 studies across six countries that involved some 1,080 participants — all of whom had a “formal diagnosis of a mental disorder, including depression and anxiety,” as per a news release on the findings — researchers found that the participants’ mental health improved with “movement-based yoga,” with the benefits “being incremental with the amount of yoga they practiced,” they said.
“As self-isolation escalates and people find themselves working from home and unable to physically catch up with their friends and family, we’re likely to see more people feel lonely and disconnected,” said lead researcher and University of South Australia PhD candidate Jacinta Brinsley, in a statement.
Movement-based yoga was defined by the researchers as “any form of yoga where participants are physically active at least 50 [percent] of the time, that is forms of yoga that emphasize holding poses and flowing through sequences of poses,” as per the news release.
“As self-isolation escalates and people find themselves working from home and unable to physically catch up with their friends and family, we’re likely to see more people feel lonely and disconnected,” said lead researcher and University of South Australia Ph.D. candidate Jacinta Brinsley, in a statement. “Exercise has always been a great strategy for people struggling with these feelings as it boosts both mood and health. But as gyms and exercise classes of all kinds are now closed – even jogging with a friend is strongly discouraged – people are looking for alternatives, and this is where yoga can help.”
“Our research shows that movement-based yoga improved symptoms of depression (or improved mental health) for people living with a range of mental health conditions, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress and major depression. So, it’s very good news for people struggling in times of uncertainty,” Brinsley added.
The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.