You may already know that practicing yoga has been linked to better heart health and lower stress. So it's probably not too surprising that yoga can be great for your mental health, too.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, a particular form of yogic breathing could help ease symptoms of major depression. The breathing-based meditation, called Sudarshan Kriya yoga, may alleviate symptoms of depression for those who haven't been receptive to other forms of treatment, such as medication.
In a study of 25 participants, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that those with major depressive disorders who did not fully respond to medication saw a decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety after practicing Sudarshan Kriya yoga. Researchers studied the participants for two months, during which they monitored symptoms such as mood, interest in activities, energy, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of guilt.
According to Science Daily, Sudarshan Kriya is a series of breathing exercises that alternate between quick and slow breaths, designed to bring people to a more restful, meditative state. This kind of mindfulness, according to the American Psychological Association, promotes awareness of your current state, which can have a positive effect on your mental health.
However, it's also worth noting that this is a preliminary study, with a relatively small sample size of 25 participants. Plus, the study also refers to a very specific kind of yoga that specifically emphasizes breathing, so other forms of yoga might not offer the same results.
That being said, if you're not super into yoga, another technique of mindfulness-based stress reduction (a breathing meditation with some very low intensity yoga) has also proven effective — so really, it looks like mindful breathing is the key.