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Effects of yoga on depressive symptoms in people with mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Jacinta Brinsley1,
  2. Felipe Schuch2,
  3. Oscar Lederman3,
  4. Danielle Girard1,
  5. Matthew Smout4,
  6. Maarten A Immink1,
  7. Brendon Stubbs5,
  8. Joseph Firth6,
  9. Kade Davison1,
  10. Simon Rosenbaum7,8
  1. 1 Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity, University of South Australia: Allied Health and Human Performance, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  2. 2 Department of Sports Methods and Techniques, Federal University of Santa Maria, Santa Maria, Brazil
  3. 3 Keeping the Body In Mind, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  4. 4 School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  5. 5 Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK
  6. 6 Division of Psychology and Mental Health, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  7. 7 School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  8. 8 Black Dog Institute, Randwick, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Jacinta Brinsley, School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia; jacintabrinsley.aep{at}


Objective To assess whether physically active yoga is superior to waitlist control, treatment as usual and attention control in alleviating depressive symptoms in people with a diagnosed mental disorder recognised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Design Systematic review and meta-analysis following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.

Data sources Data were obtained from online databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO, CENTRAL, EMCARE, PEDro). The search and collection of eligible studies was conducted up to 14 May 2019 (PROSPERO registration No CRD42018090441).

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies We included randomised controlled trials with a yoga intervention comprising ≥50% physical activity in adults with a recognised diagnosed mental disorder according to DSM-3, 4 or 5.

Results 19 studies were included in the review (1080 participants) and 13 studies were included in the meta-analysis (632 participants). Disorders of depression, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia, anxiety, alcohol dependence and bipolar were included. Yoga showed greater reductions in depressive symptoms than waitlist, treatment as usual and attention control (standardised mean difference=0.41; 95% CI −0.65 to −0.17; p<0.001). Greater reductions in depressive symptoms were associated with higher frequency of yoga sessions per week (β=−0.44, p<0.01).

  • exercise
  • psychiatry
  • review
  • depression

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  • Twitter @theyogidoc_, @simon_rosenbaum

  • Contributors JB and SR conceived the study. OL screened papers. FS, BS and JF assisted with data analysis. All authors contributed to data interpretation and drafting of the manuscript and approved the final version.

  • Funding Simon Rosenbaum is funded by an NHMRC Fellowship APP1123336. Brendon Stubbs is supported by a Clinical Lectureship (ICA-CL-2017-03-001) jointly funded by Health Education England (HEE) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). Brendon Stubbs is part funded by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the (partner organisation), the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care. Joseph Firth is supported by a University of Manchester Presidential Fellowship.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.