A new trial from Deakin University and Barwon Health will examine how yoga could be used to complement traditional psychological treatments for people with depression and anxiety.

Researchers are now recruiting for the Geelong-based trial, which will bring together a unique combination of mental health professionals, researchers and yoga teachers to monitor the effects of the multi-pronged treatment approach.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Melissa O’Shea, a clinical psychologist with Deakin’s School of Psychology, said there was growing evidence to suggest yoga could benefit adults suffering from anxiety and depression.

“In the past 10 years there has been a proliferation of research into alternative and complementary medical approaches in mental health, with yoga emerging as particularly promising,” she said.

“This is very exciting because we know complementary approaches to mental health are becoming more popular and more acceptable among Australian adults, and people increasingly understand how approaches to mental health problems can benefit from a holistic perspective.

“We need to understand better what the mechanisms for these benefits are and how yoga can work with other forms of treatment such as psychological therapy to maximise people’s recovery from common and debilitating conditions such as depression and anxiety.”

The pilot trial will compare adults with anxiety and depression who complete an eight-week course of group-based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), with a different group who complete the CBT program with the addition of group yoga and an individually-tailored yoga program for home practice.

Ms O’Shea said the weekly group yoga class was designed specifically for those with anxiety and depression, while the individualised home practice would aim to assist the participant’s journey during the study.

“We’re interested in what supports adults to take up yoga along with psychological treatment, as well as what might be the barriers to adopting a yoga practice,” she said.

“It’s important for us to understand what might be needed to support yoga practice as an acceptable additional treatment, and we’re thrilled that this work is being led right here in Geelong.”

The pilot trial will be conducted from October at Geelong’s Barwon Health Psychology Clinic, which is jointly led by Barwon Health and Deakin University and supported by the Western Victoria Primary Health Network.

Those interested in participating in the trial can contact research staff at yogapsychology@deakin.edu.au.

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