Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

A new study has found that regular practice of hot yoga can boost your mood.


We’re pleased to bring you some good news. Just one session of hot yoga a week can help reduce symptoms of depression, according to the results of a clinical trial.

To feel the benefits, however, you will have to endure temperatures of up to 40.5 Celsius while performing poses and breathing exercises in hot and humid conditions. Understandably, it can result in considerable sweating. 

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The study found that adults with moderate to severe depression experienced ‘significantly greater’ reductions in depressive symptoms compared to a control group who did not take part in the sessions.

The eight-week trial, led by Massachusetts General Hospital, divided the 80 adults into two random groups.

Half went to 90-minute hot – or Bikram – yoga sessions twice a week, while the other group were told they were being placed on a waiting list and did not receive any treatment.

Overall those who participated attended an average of 10.3 classes over eight weeks.

The researchers found that nearly 60 per cent of the hot yoga participants experienced a 50 per cent or greater decrease in their symptoms, compared with just 6.3 per cent of the waiting list participants.

They also discovered that 44 per cent of those who did the yoga classes had seen such a dramatic improvement in symptoms that they were no longer classed as depressed, compared with just 6 per cent of the waiting list group.

The team said that depressive symptoms were reduced even in participants who received only half of the prescribed ‘dose’ – suggesting that hot yoga sessions just once a week could be beneficial.

“Yoga and heat-based interventions could potentially change the course for treatment for patients with depression by providing a non-medication–based approach with additional physical benefits as a bonus,” said Maren Nyer, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the study.

“We are developing new studies with the goal of determining the specific contributions of each element, heat and yoga, to the clinical effects we have observed in depression.”

Which European country uses the most antidepressants?

According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data, the use of antidepressants increased by nearly two and a half times from 2000 to 2020 in 18 European countries.

There was also a dramatic increase in anxiety and depression during the COVID‑19 pandemic.

France experienced the lowest increase in the use of antidepressants over this period – 38 per cent – albeit it started from a relatively high level.

The United Kingdom saw a 256 per cent increase while Spain and Germany experienced a 208 per cent and 200 per cent rise in the same period.

Meanwhile, in 2020, Iceland had the highest rate of consumption of AD pharmaceuticals per 1000 people per day with 153 defined daily doses (DDD) followed by Portugal (131 DDD), the UK (108 DDD in 2017), Sweden (105 DDD) and Spain (87 DDD).

The consumption of AD drugs increased by 36.5 per cent between 2010 and 2020 in 24 European countries. Denmark was the only country to see a decrease  – with a 4 per cent decline. 


An alternative to antidepressants

It may be too early to say if hot yoga should be offered to complement existing treatments, such as antidepressants.

But it is purported to increase flexibility and improve strength, balance and body composition as well as aerobic fitness. 

The hotter environment is said to make it easier to stretch your muscles, although there is the danger of overstretching.

Usually performed in a calming environment it has also long been considered a good way to reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being, particularly in sedentary and stressed adults.

Several independent studies have found hot yoga to be effective at reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.


Encouraging you to focus on deep breathing, could also help with your stress levels.

While the evidence is still limited – particularly when it comes to aerobic improvements – it seems clear that there are plenty of gains to be had from taking up hot yoga.

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