Hot Yoga: A Promising Adjunct Therapy for Depression

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By Dr. Alex Jenkins, Harvard Medical School

Hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga, is a specific set of poses and breathing postures practiced in a heated, humid room. While the idea of engaging in yoga in a room set at 105 degrees Fahrenheit may seem daunting to some, it has shown promise as a complementary therapy for moderate-to-severe depression.

Clinical Evidence

A controlled trial conducted by Harvard Medical School and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in October 2023 shed light on the potential of hot yoga in alleviating depression symptoms. The study enrolled 65 adults with depression, ranging in age from 18 to 60, including individuals already taking antidepressants. Participants were randomly assigned to either a hot yoga group or a waiting list control group for eight weeks. The hot yoga group was instructed to attend at least two 90-minute sessions per week.

The results were promising. Participants in the hot yoga group exhibited significant reductions in depression symptoms, even with an attendance rate of only one session per week. Notably, symptoms eased by 50% or more in approximately 60% of the hot yoga participants, compared to just 6% of those on the waiting list.

Suitability and Precautions

While hot yoga may provide benefits for some individuals with depression, it is essential to note that it may not be suitable for everyone. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as heart problems, should consult their physician before engaging in hot yoga. Additionally, it is crucial to attend classes led by a certified instructor to ensure safe practices and proper technique.


The study conducted by Harvard Medical School suggests that hot yoga may be a valuable adjunct therapy for depression, potentially improving mental health outcomes when used alone or in conjunction with medication. Further research is warranted to explore the long-term effects of hot yoga on depression and compare its efficacy to other types of yoga and exercise.

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