As anyone who regularly turns to their yoga mat in times of crisis will know, the activity can have an amazing effect on mood. And now science has backed this feeling up, with a new study suggesting yoga can help to ease depression.

The study, by Boston University, examined 30 people aged 18 – 64 who were suffering from clinical depression, who were all assigned different amounts of yoga classes. Half committed to a 90-minute Iyengar yoga class three times per week, as well as four 30 minute sessions at home each week, while the other had slightly shorter sessions, with two group classes per week and three home sessions, over three months.

After the three months was finished, almost everyone had lowered their scores on a depression survey by at least 50%. Those who took more classes had even lower scores.

What is Iyengar yoga?

As well as precise poses, Iyengar yoga places an emphasis on controlled, slow breathing. The classes in the study included at least 20 minutes of gentle breathing.

How many yoga classes should I take per week?

While the study found that the more yoga you do, the better the effects on your mental health, they actually recommend taking two classes a week so that it’s easy to fit into your life.

Why does yoga help depression?

Yoga works well as a non-medication-based treatment, as its breathing exercises target your automatic nervous system, helping to calm your brain.