Impact of yoga based mind-body intervention on systemic inflammatory markers and co-morbid depression in active Rheumatoid arthritis patients: A randomized controlled trial

Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2019;37(1):41-59. doi: 10.3233/RNN-180875.


Background: Recovery of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) depends on several physical and psychological factors, besides pharmacological treatment. Co-morbid depression adversely affects the outcome in RA. Usual medical therapies have a limited scope and fail to cure the psychological component of the disease. With advanced therapeutic options, achieving a state of remission has become the treatment goal, yoga based mind body intervention (MBI) may provide a holistic approach in its treatment dimension. Hence, MBIs are the need of hour as majority of diseases have a psychosomatic component.

Objective: To explore the effect of Yoga based MBI on disease specific inflammatory markers and depression severity in active RA patients on routine disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) therapy.

Methods: A total of 72 RA patients were randomized into 2 groups: yoga group (yoga with DMARDs) and control group (DMARDs only). Blood samples were collected pre and post intervention for primary outcome measurements of systemic biomarkers. Disease activity score 28, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (DAS28ESR) and health assessment questionnaire disability index (HAQ-DI) were used to assess disease activity and functional status respectively at pre and post intervention time-points. Secondary outcome, depression severity, was assessed by Beck Depression Inventory II scale (BDI-II) at 2 weekly intervals during 8 weeks of the study interventional plan.

Results: After 8 weeks of yoga based MBI, there was significant decrease in the severity of RA as seen by reduction in levels of various systemic inflammatory markers as well as in DAS28ESR (p-value <0.0001; effect size = 0.210) and HAQ-DI (p-value 0.001; effect size = 0.159). Also, yoga group experienced a statistically significant time dependent step-wise decline in depression symptoms over the period of 8 weeks as compared to control group (p-value <0.0001; effect size = 0.5). Regression analysis showed greater reduction in the scores of BDI-II with DAS28ESR (R2 = 0.426; p < 0.0001) and HAQ-DI (R2 = 0.236; p = 0.003) in yoga group.

Conclusions: Yoga, a mind body intervention re-established immunological tolerance by aiding remission at molecular and cellular level along with significant reduction in depression. Thus in this severe autoimmune inflammatory arthritis with a major psychosomatic component, yoga can be used as a complementary/adjunct therapy.

Keywords: Rheumatoid arthritis; depression; immunomodulation; inflammation; meditation; oxidative stress; remission; yoga.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / immunology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / psychology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / immunology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / epidemiology
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / psychology
  • Inflammation / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Yoga*


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Biomarkers