Objectives: The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of a 12-week yoga program on heart rate variability (HRV) and depressive symptoms in depressed women.
Methods: This was a randomized controlled trial. Twenty-six sedentary women scoring ≥14 on the Beck Depression Inventory-II were randomized to either the yoga or the control group. The yoga group completed a 12-week yoga program, which took place twice a week for 60 min per session and consisted of breathing exercises, yoga pose practice, and supine meditation/relaxation. The control group was instructed not to engage in any yoga practice and to maintain their usual level of physical activity during the course of the study. Participants' HRV, depressive symptoms, and perceived stress were assessed at baseline and post-test.
Results: The yoga group had a significant increase in high-frequency HRV and decreases in low-frequency HRV and low frequency/high frequency ratio after the intervention. The yoga group also reported significantly reduced depressive symptoms and perceived stress. No change was found in the control group.
Conclusions: A 12-week yoga program was effective in increasing parasympathetic tone and reducing depressive symptoms and perceived stress in women with elevated depressive symptoms. Regular yoga practice may be recommended for women to cope with their depressive symptoms and stress and to improve their HRV.
Keywords: depression; heart rate variability; stress; women's health; yoga.