Presentation Title

Effects of a Hatha Yoga Intervention on Depressive Symptoms: Mediating Roles of Mindfulness and Self


Even the most efficacious treatments for depression have high non-response and relapse rates and are limited by issues of accessibility and acceptability (DeRubeis et al., 2005; Mohr et al., 2016). Given the high personal and societal costs mood disorders (Donohue & Pincus, 2007), there is a strong need for novel and adjunctive interventions. Yoga is one complementary approach that has shown initial promise for reducing depressive symptoms that is increasingly incorporated into treatment (Cramer et al., 2013). Secondary data analyses from a randomized controlled trial of a hatha yoga intervention were conducted to: (1) examine yoga's effects on depressive symptoms, and (2) explore mindfulness and self-compassion as potential mechanisms of change. Women ages 25-45 (M=33.5, SD=6.4) high in perceived stress and disordered eating were randomized to a twice-weekly, 8-week Bikram Yoga intervention (n=27) or to waitlist control (n=25). Measures of depression (BDI-II; elevated at baseline: M=18.1, SD=6.1), mindfulness (FFMQ), and self-compassion (SCS) were administered at baseline, week 3, week 6, and post-intervention (week 9). Multi-level modeling (MLM) revealed significant intervention effects on depression (b=0.36, p=.009), the SCS self-judgment subscale (b=-0.41, p=.003), and the FFMQ nonjudging subscale (b=-0.30, p=.004). When potential mediators were examined together in a multiple mediation model, SCS self-judgment emerged as the most robust mediator of depression outcomes (b path: b=-0.24, p=.003; 95% CI: 0.024, 0.205). This study builds on earlier open trials by demonstrating the efficacy of yoga for reducing depressive symptoms and implicate decreasing critical self-judgment as an important mechanism of action. Future research directions and clinical implications (e.g., the role of yoga in other mindfulness-based interventions) will be discussed. Given post-hoc analyses revealing that the effects of yoga varied significantly by body mass index, discussion will also include the potential roles of weight and body image among women at risk for obesity and eating pathology.