UIHC researchers apply yoga to depression


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The benefits of yoga may stretch further than merely mind and body.

Researchers in the University of Iowa Psychology Department are exploring yoga as an alternative to medication for women struggling with postpartum depression. They hope the study will completed within the year.

A study with this particular focus has never been done before, said Melissa Buttner, a fifth-year doctoral student running the trials. Buttner, who has practiced and taught yoga for 10 years, worked with fellow Hothouse Yoga instructor Darcy LeFevre because of her experience with postpartum depression.

"You don't want to taking pills if you don't need to," LeFevre said. "The great thing about [the study] is, there is no downside to it."

In a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 to 18 percent of women nationwide reported postpartum depression symptoms.

LeFevre said she stayed on antidepressants after her first child was born but stayed off medication with her second child.

"[Buttner] wanted to talk with somebody who had gone through pregnancy doing yoga," LeFevre said. "She talked with me extensively when she was creating the series about which postures are appropriate."

Buttner said she is seeking volunteers to participate in 16 one-hour classes over an eight-week time span at the Hothouse Yoga, 250 12th Ave., Coralville.

During the eight weeks, she will assess the women using self-report questioners and interviews.

"A lot of women in this community are open to trying something new," Buttner said. "Just based on the experience I've had to date, and speaking with these women, it seems like they are very excited about doing something different like yoga."

In order to be eligible as a participant, women must be between the ages of 18 and 50, have given birth in the last 12 months, not currently undergoing treatment for depression, and have no instructed yoga within the past month.

The current number of participants in the study could not be disclosed.

UI psychology Professor Michael O'Hara, Buttner's adviser, has studied postpartum depression for 32 years.

He said research suggests it's important to know postpartum depression is a problem that has major consequences for women, their children, and their family.

"Yoga is, we hope, proven to be another good intervention for women who choose not to do use other forms for medication," O'Hara said.

LeFevre believes it's a worthwhile study that could lead to a lot more interesting findings.

Yet, she said, each woman needs to seek her own therapy.

"I think yoga helped, but I don't think it's the solution for every person," she said. "Everybody needs to find her own thing."

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