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OBJECTIVES: To understand depressed individuals' experiences in a 10-week hatha yoga program. DESIGN: In a randomized controlled trial, participants were assigned to either 10 weeks of hatha yoga classes or a health education control group. This report includes responses from participants in yoga classes. At the start of classes, average depression symptom severity level was moderate. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: After 10 weeks of yoga classes, we asked participants (n=50) to provide written responses to open-ended questions about what they liked about classes, what they did not like or did not find helpful, and what they learned. We analyzed qualitative data using thematic analysis. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Elements of yoga classes that may increase acceptability for depressed individuals include having instructors who promote a non-competitive and non-judgmental atmosphere, who are knowledgeable and able to provide individualized attention, and who are kind and warm. Including depression-related themes in classes, teaching mindfulness, teaching breathing exercises, and providing guidance for translating class into home practice may help to make yoga effective for targeting depression. Participants' comments reinforced the importance of aspects of mindfulness, such as attention to the present moment and acceptance of one's self and one's experience, as potential mechanisms of action. Other potential mechanisms include use of breathing practices in everyday life and the biological mechanisms that underlie the positive impact of yogic breathing. The most serious concern highlighted by a few participants was the concern that the yoga classes were too difficult given their physical abilities.
We conducted a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) comparing a prenatal yoga intervention to perinatal-focused health education in pregnant women with depression. Findings document acceptability and feasibility of the yoga intervention: no yoga-related injuries were observed, instructors showed fidelity to the yoga manual, and women rated interventions as acceptable. Although improvements in depression were not statistically different between groups, they favored yoga. This study provides support for a larger scale RCT examining prenatal yoga to improve mood during pregnancy.
BACKGROUND: Hatha yoga may be helpful for alleviating depression symptoms. The purpose of this analysis is to determine whether treatment program preference, credibility, or expectancy predict engagement in depression interventions (yoga or a control class) or depression symptom severity over time. METHODS: This is a secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of hatha yoga vs. a health education control group for treatment of depression. Depressed participants (n=122) attended up to 20 classes over a period of 10 weeks, and then completed additional assessments after 3 and 6 months. We assessed treatment preference prior to randomization, and treatment credibility and expectancy after participants attended their first class. Treatment "concordance" indicated that treatment preference matched assigned treatment. RESULTS: Treatment credibility, expectancy, and concordance were not associated with treatment engagement. Treatment expectancy moderated the association between treatment group and depression. Depression severity over time differed by expectancy level for the yoga group but not for the health education group. Controlling for baseline depression, participants in the yoga group with an average or high expectancy for improvement showed lower depression symptoms across the acute intervention and follow-up period than those with a low expectancy for improvement. There was a trend for a similar pattern for credibility. Concordance was not associated with treatment outcome. LIMITATIONS: This is a secondary, post-hoc analysis and should be considered hypothesis-generating. CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that expectancy improves the likelihood of success only for a intervention thought to actively target depression (yoga) and not a control intervention.