A randomized controlled dosing study of Iyengar yoga and coherent breathing for the treatment of major depressive disorder: Impact on suicidal ideation and safety findings

Complement Ther Med. 2018 Apr;37:136-142. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2018.02.006. Epub 2018 Feb 23.


Background: Yoga interventions offer promise for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD), yet their safety and potential impact on suicidal ideation (SI) have not been well documented. This study evaluated the safety of a randomized controlled dose-finding trial of Iyengar yoga plus coherent breathing for individuals with MDD, as well as the potential effects of the intervention on SI without intent.

Methods: Participants with Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) scores ≥14 and a diagnosis of MDD (using DSM-IV criteria) were randomized to either a low dose group (LDG) or high dose group (HDG) and received a 12-week manualized intervention. The LDG included two 90-min yoga classes plus three 30-min homework sessions weekly. The HDG offered three 90-min classes plus four 30-min homework sessions weekly.

Results: Thirty-two individuals with MDD were randomized, of which 30 completed the protocol. At screening, SI without intent was endorsed on the BDI-II by 9 participants; after completing the intervention, 8 out of 9 reported resolution of SI. There were 17 adverse events possibly-related and 15 definitely-related to the intervention. The most common protocol-related adverse event was musculoskeletal pain, which resolved over the course of the study.

Conclusions: The Iyengar yoga plus coherent breathing intervention was associated with the resolution of SI in 8 out of 9 participants, with mild side effects that were primarily musculoskeletal in nature. This preliminary evidence suggests that this intervention may reduce SI without intent and be safe for use in those with MDD.

Keywords: Breathing; Depression; Iyengar; Major depressive disorder (MDD); Randomized; Safety; Suicide; Yoga.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breathing Exercises*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Safety
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Yoga*
  • Young Adult