Young Women and the Mental Health Benefits of Yoga

Those who practice yoga do so for many reasons. Many people use the exercise for just as many different reasons, including improving one’s posture, flexibility, and muscle tone. Now, growing scientific evidence suggests that yoga is also effective in improving our mental health -- namely, reducing depression.  

Recent studies that suggest yoga is effective in reducing anxiety and depression come at a time when Americans -- especially American teenage girls -- need new ways to decrease their depression that doesn’t involve ineffective and potentially dangerous medication regimens. 

Modern treatment for depression typically involves a mix of psychotherapy and prescribed medications -- antidepressants. Unfortunately, many people, especially teens, do not respond well to these medications, which are historically prone to increase depressive symptoms. Approximately only one-third of teens who take antidepressants report having positive results. 

Treatment-resistant depression has consequently caused millions of afflicted individuals and therapeutic professionals to seek alternative means of relieving depressive symptoms. This need perhaps explains our growing interest in mind-body practices to improve our psychological well-being. 

A study from 2012 found that yoga has seen a particular rise in practitioners. Its findings show that the percentage of US. Yoga practitioners rose from 5 to 10 percent in a decade. While there is no more recent data on this topic, it’s almost inconceivable to suggest that this number hasn’t risen since 2012. 

Studies Show Yoga is an Effective Alternative to Symptom-Riddled Antidepressants

A myriad of studies that focus on yoga’s effect on mental health suggests that yoga is just as effective as leading antidepressants in treating depression. But unlike antidepressants, those practicing yoga are not in danger of developing harmful symptoms, including it in their daily regimens. 

According to researchers, yoga “provides both immediate and long-term relief from depressive symptoms.”

Studies on Yoga Treating Depression

In 2016, a study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine examined the effectiveness of yoga versus walking in treating depression. 

In the study, researchers examined two groups of women. One group of women were instructed to walk, and the other group was given yoga exercises to do each day over a 12-week period. 

“While both groups experienced an improvement in their symptoms, the mindfulness-based yoga group reported significantly lower levels of rumination (which can trigger depression) after the study ended.”

As one researcher put it, “Reducing rumination might be key to helping women and teenage girls keep their depression in remission.”

Similarly, a 2019 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice concluded that yoga, "if used supplementarily with other traditional forms of talk therapy and medications, is effective in treating clinical, treatment-resistant depression."

The study, which included two groups of 30 total participants practicing yoga -- one group for 90 minutes a day three times a week and another two times a week -- conducted to determine the correct “dose” of yoga; or how much yoga it takes to treat depression effectively, According to their findings, both groups yielded equally positive results. 

Individuals Recovering From Addiction

Addiction has been an epidemic problem that has affected millions, including the lives of troubled teenage girls. Like that of the mental health epidemic, addiction is a vastly complicated illness that is difficult to treat. And, just like treatment-resistant depression, yoga has shown scientific promise in treating those who failed to rehabilitate themselves through other means.

As to why yoga is effective in treating addiction, it is also linked to its effectiveness in treating anxiety and depression. Both often act as a ‘trigger’ for using drugs or relapse on using harmful substances. 

A 2011 study published in Procedia found that practicing yoga three times a week (one hour each session) “significantly reduced depressive and anxiety symptoms" in participants who were in a rehab clinic after only five weeks. 

The study found that yoga successfully reduced anxiety and depression due to its impact on the human body’s nervous system, particularly in the way it naturally regulates hormones.

The study and its evidence-based results were enough to prompt the researchers to conclude that yoga “be prescribed to individuals recovering from addiction as a complementary form of treatment that can make medication and therapy even more effective.”

Using Yoga to Treat Troubled Teenage Girls 

Considering all the aforementioned data, yoga is most assuredly a positive outlet and mind-body-connective exercise for treating mental health issues in troubled teenage girls. 

Yoga is effective in treating the issues of troubled girls for the following reasons: 

  • Improves general body awareness
  • Helps alleviate stress through rhythmic breathing and stretching
  • Promotes positive body image
  • Builds self-esteem 
  • Boosts self-confidence
  • Builds muscle and muscle endurance
  • Can act as an alternative activity to replace negative, self-destructing activities  

Experts recommend utilizing the services of a program that includes mind-body-connective exercises like yoga in their treatments for parents who are currently seeking the services of a program for troubled teen girls.