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Even a Single Yoga Session Can Help


Substantial research supports the health and mental health benefits of yoga. Yoga has been shown to help reduce blood pressure, help with chronic pain conditions and pain-associated disability, increase flexibility and protection from injury. Yoga can also help reduce stress and help relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder.

There are many different types of yoga, ranging from intense and active to very calming and gentle. They often involve breathing techniques, relaxation, poses, movement and stretching.

Most research on the mental health effects of yoga look at the benefits over time. A new study presented at the 2018 APA Annual Meeting in New York City looked specifically at potential benefits of using yoga as a coping mechanism and the immediate mental health benefits of practicing yoga. Could a single yoga session have a positive impact on mood, anxiety and tension?

Researchers compared the immediate effects of yoga to an evidence-based, unstructured physical activity program in a group of participants in a mental health treatment program (Intensive Outpatient Program). Physical activity and exercise are also known to have mental health benefits.

The study involved teens 12-17 years old. Half of the participants took part in a one and a half hour yoga class, the other half took part in a facilitated unstructured physical activity session. The yoga took place indoors and was led by a registered yoga instructor. It included evidence-based mindfulness practices such as breathing techniques, sensation tracking (focusing on feelings and experiences of the moment), guided imagery (using words and music to evoke positive imaginary scenarios) and movement. The physical activity groups were held outside and consisted of a check-in for each individual, stretching, 40 minutes of walking and 20-30 minutes of a game (kickball or tag)

The yoga group showed significant improvements in all categories studied from pre to post session, including mood, stress, anxiety, body tension and focus. Those in the physical activity group showed some improvement in mood and body tension.

While the study was small, it does highlight the potential of yoga, even participation in just a single session, as an effective intervention.


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