What is it about?

We studied the effectiveness of a new treatment for depression, a 9-week training based on mindful yoga. We expected that mindful yoga training would lead to reduced depression symptoms and that this benefit could be explained in part because the yoga group also showed less rumination and more self-compassion, both of which play a major role in the onset and persistence of depression. We investigated these ideas with a randomized controlled trial in which there were two groups. The control group only received the usual treatment recommended by Dutch Treatment Guidelines and the yoga group received the yoga training in addition to the usual treatment. Participants were randomized, which means that they were assigned to one of the two groups by chance. We asked the participants to report on their depression, rumination, and self-compassion (among other variables) at four assessment points: immediately before and after the training, and then at 6 and 12 months after the training. The study participants consisted of 171 young women who had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and who were currently being treated for the depression symptoms, most often with medication and a form of psychological treatment. In the mindful yoga condition, 80% of participants attended at least 5 of the 9 sessions. In addition, there was an online program to support home practice. However, the mindful yoga participants made little use of the home practice exercises, with only half of the participants completing at least one practice a week. We analyzed the results using statistical techniques in which we compared the effects for the yoga group compared to the control group. The analyses showed that there was no difference between the two groups in terms of decrease in symptoms of depression. In addition, rumination did not decrease more in the yoga group, However, there was a greater increase in self-compassion in the yoga group. The relatively low amount of practice might be a reason for the null results on depression symptoms. That is, participants may have already been busy with their usual treatment, or they didn't have enough energy to practice due to their depression. As a result, they may not have been able to seriously benefit from the training. The null results may also be due to the efficacy of the usual treatment, as participants in the control condition reported significant reductions in their depression symptoms. This means that a potential benefit of mindful yoga as an add-on could be relatively small and would need more participants than we had to detect.

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Why is it important?

Depression is common in young women and unfortunately, many do not sufficiently benefit in the short-term and long-term with existing treatments. We therefore examined the effectiveness of a 9-week training based on mindful yoga as an add-on to the usual treatment according to Dutch Treatment Guidelines.


Working on this trial with all the participants was a great pleasure. I am grateful for the time and energy they invested in our study. With the research assistant and the co-authors involved we have had a wonderful collaboration, each contributing their expertise to the overall project and to the final paper. We hope our work will provide more insight into the effectiveness of mindful yoga for young women with depression.

Nina Vollbehr

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Mindful yoga intervention as add-on to treatment as usual for young women with major depressive disorder: Results from a randomized controlled trial., Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, December 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/ccp0000777.
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