Presentation Title

Effects of a Hatha Yoga Intervention on Depressive Symptoms in Male Military Veterans


U.S. military veterans have elevated rates of mood disorders relative to the civilian population (Seal et al., 2007; 2009). Given the need for more effective, patient-centered interventions for this population, recent trials have examined complementary and integrative interventions such as yoga for improving veterans’ mental health (e.g., Reddy et al., 2014; Staples et al., 2013). The purpose of this quality improvement/assurance project was to examine the acceptability and anti-depressant effects of a hatha yoga program for veterans. Twenty-three male veterans (age mean = 59.9, SD=14.1) were referred by VA primary care physicians to participate in 8 weeks of twice-weekly yoga classes at a local, private yoga studio. T tests revealed significant improvements from pre- to post-intervention in: PHQ-9 depressive symptoms (p = .007, d = .28), AAQ-II experiential avoidance (p = .035, d = .36), and FMI mindfulness (p = .047, d = .42). Furthermore, reductions in depressive symptoms were predicted by reductions in experiential avoidance (p < .0001) and increases in mindfulness (p = .006). Among those with elevated depression scores at baseline, we found a significant dose response effect, such that greater yoga class attendance was associated with greater symptom reduction (p = .014). Both qualitative and quantitative data analyses revealed high acceptability of the yoga intervention. On a 1-10 scale, the mean rating for enjoyment of yoga practice was 9.4 (mode = 10; minimum = 7), and 100% responded that they would recommend the program to other veterans. Qualitative data on yoga program acceptability will also be presented (e.g., "… in exchanges with some of the guys suffering from severe PTSD, to see that nervousness and agitation slow down a bit and get it under control and [to see] smile[s] again… that’s one of the biggest attributes of the program.”)