Feeling blue? Close the fridge, skip the wine, and hit the yoga mat instead. Turns out that a little downward-facing dog may be all it takes to cheer you up. A new research review out of Duke University reveals that yoga can relieve a multitude of mental health woes, from depression to memory problems.

"We found that both the aerobic component of yoga as well as its meditative aspects relieve the symptoms of several major psychiatric disorders," explains study review co-author Murali Doraiswamy, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Duke’s School of Medicine. The aerobic nature of yoga enhances blood circulation and boosts the release of endorphins, Doraiswamy explains, and the meditative aspect can improve focus and attention, while also helping us relax.

And it doesn't matter whether you practice vinyasa or Bikram: Doraiswamy says that no single method of yoga appears to be more beneficial than any other. It only takes 30 minutes, three times a week, to feel a difference, he says. “Even once a week will provide benefits,” Doraiswamy adds.

Here's what the review found that yoga can heal:

5 Surprising Mental Health Benefits From Yoga Slideshow



The depressive symptoms of 69 elderly adults fell an average of 20 percent after three months of weekly yoga, and 40 percent after six months. Yoga was even more effective at relieving depression among a group of 60 adults recovering from alcohol dependence. (Back-bends appear particularly effective at combating the blues. Try this Sadness Busting Sequence.)



Binge eating dropped 50 percent among a group of 90 overweight or obese women after 12 weeks of yoga practice. Compared to a control group, the women who practiced yoga were also 26 percent more likely to stick with their diet regimens, and were also more physically active. If you're interested in slimming down, consider these top yoga poses for weight loss.


Memory loss

Among 30 adults who practiced yoga for eight weeks, scores improved significantly on tests of short-term memory, concentration, multi-tasking, and several other measures of mental health. (Stay sharp and energized with Yoga Poses That Curb Stress.)



After practicing yoga three times a week for six months, sleep quality improved an average of 28 percent among 139 senior citizens. The study participants also reported feeling sharper and less depressed during the day. Wondering which ones to try? We've rounded up the top yoga poses to beat insomnia.



A study of 18 adults suffering from schizophrenia found that two months of weekly yoga practice reduced aggression, improved the participants' willingness to take medication, and relieved symptoms of the disorder by 30 percent. (Sharpen your mind and improve your concentration in just 28 days!)

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