Yoga for Mental Health: Research Round-Up

Alternative Treatments for DepressionIt is no secret or surprise that practicing yoga can yield tremendous benefits for the body, mind and spirit. Luckily, the explosion of research supporting mindfulness-based therapies in the healthcare field has meant that more investigators are also looking into the specific benefits of yoga.

If you’re interested in or already actively incorporating yoga into your psychotherapy practice, staying up to speed on the latest evidence that supports the therapeutic applications of yoga is important. Here are some of the most recent studies showing the effectiveness of yoga programs for a range of mental health concerns including anxiety, PTSD, emotion regulation, and addiction.

A yin yoga and mindfulness program helped to decrease stress and worry and boost mindfulness.

 A new study published in this month’s issue of the international journal Anxiety, Stress and Coping found that just five weeks of a yin yoga and mindfulness program yielded significant reductions in stress and worry.

The program used in the study is called YOMI, which combines the words yoga and mindfulness and is a combination of psycho-education and physical practices of mindfulness and yin yoga. Yin yoga is a style of yoga that emphasizes slow and meditative practice as opposed to vigorous or aerobic, like some other styles.

 The study was conducted with a non-clinical sample of participants but found that after five weeks of the YOMI program, participants reported less stress and worry and more mindfulness. The improvements were sustained at a follow-up which took place after five weeks.

 Yoga was found to be effective as an adjuvant therapy for veterans with combat-related PTSD symptoms.

 A study published earlier this month in the journal Australian Psychiatry examined whether once weekly trauma-sensitive yoga sessions would have an impact among participants with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Twenty-eight of the 30 recruited participants, who were a median age of 63, completed the protocol. 

 The study found a host of benefits including increases in the serum dehydroepiandrosterone concentration, a hormone which when diminished is associated with stress. The study also found decreases in the PCL score, the score from a 17-item self-report measure which assesses symptoms of PTSD according to the DSM-IV definition.

 The findings were consistent with the growing body of research that shows the effectiveness of yoga as a stress-reduction strategy.

 Sixth graders who participated in a yoga program were able to self-regulate, able to better manage stress, and did better in school.

 A dissertation study completed late last year sought to examine whether a school yoga program for sixth graders had had a significant impact on the students’ ability to self-regulate, manage stress and perform in school.

 The investigator surveyed parents and teachers of the 6th grade students in the district and found that students who participated were often able to self-regulate, to manage stress, and to engage academically in a range of settings and situations.

 Yoga was found to be a powerful tool in helping people to quit smoking.

 A study published in the Journal of Thoacic Oncology sought to determine whether yoga would enhance the likelihood of smoking cessation among those who were also receiving behavioral counseling.

 A total of 106 participants were offered behavioral counseling and about half were also offered twice weekly one-hour yoga classes which included meditation, breathing exercises and physical postures. At the completion of the study, participants who had done yoga in addition to counseling showed increased odds of abstaining from smoking over those who did counseling alone. Even after eight weeks, and then again after  12, those from the yoga group continued to show higher rates of abstinence.




Yoga for Mental Health: Research Round-Up

Jessica Dore

Jessica Dore is a behavioral science and spirituality writer with several years of experience in clinical psychology publishing. She blogs weekly about tarot cards and psychology on her website In her free time, she is a devoted ashtanga yoga practitioner, food enthusiast, and DJ. Follow her on twitter @realJessicaDore.


APA Reference
Dore, J. (2017). Yoga for Mental Health: Research Round-Up. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 6, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 May 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 May 2017
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