Yoga is a therapeutic practice that’s been known to relax the body and calm the mind. But you don’t need to tie yourself up in a pretzel to experience the antidepressant benefits, according to a new study. Researchers analyzed the top six relaxation techniques and have found yoga is the most effective way to alleviate depression. If you throw music in the mix, it’s also great for anxiety.
The ancient Indian practice of yoga has been improving the mind-body connection under the guise of a distinct philosophy for over 5,000 years through breathing, posture, and meditation exercises. While the benefits have already been studied, researchers of the new study looked at which ones provided the most relaxation by comparing 15 studies over the last 20 years. The most relaxing technique, they found, is called progressive muscle relaxation training (PMRT), and it may be able to treat anxiety and depression in yogis 60 years and older.
“It could help counterbalance the negative effects of aging, improve physical functioning, postpone disability, decrease morbidity and mortality, stimulate the mind, and increase hope, reducing the risk of anxiety and depression,” the authors wrote, according to Time. “It is believed that the PMRT has a tranquilizing effect, triggers a sense of peacefulness, helps participants retreat mentally from their problems, and curtails negative thoughts, reducing depressive symptoms.”
PMRT, is a yoga technique that engages major muscle groups and then relaxes them one at a time in order to bring awareness of tension and relief to the body and mind, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines (NCCAM). In the study, the positive effects of the technique lingered up to six months after the initial practice of stretching, breathing, and meditation involved in PMRT postures. Researchers found the antidepressant benefits trumped basic yoga, listening to music, flexing and relaxing different muscle groups, massage therapy, and stress management training.