Yoga of Immortals Intervention Reduces Symptoms of Depression, Insomnia and Anxiety

Author: Sadhna Verma1, James Donovan1, Hari S Tunuguntla2, Renuka Tunuguntla3, Babu V Gupta4, Ayon Nandi5, Ishan Shivanand6
1 University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH, United States.
2 Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, New Brunswick, NJ, United States.
3 Internist, Hunterdon Center for Healthy Ageing, Flemington, NJ, United States.
4 Psychiatrist, Neuropsych Center of Greater Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, United States.
5 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, United States.
6 SYC Infinite, San Francisco, CA, United States.
Conference/Journal: Front Psychiatry
Date published: 2021 Jun 22
Other: Volume ID: 12 , Pages: 648029 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.648029. , Word Count: 301

Background: Depression, anxiety, and disordered sleep are some common symptoms associated with sub-optimal mental health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health issues have grown increasingly more prevalent in the population. Due to social distancing and other limitations during the pandemic, there is a need for home-based, flexible interventions that can improve mental health. The Yoga of Immortals (YOI) mobile application provides a structured intervention that can be used on any mobile device and applied from the user's home. Methods: A total of 1,505 participants were enrolled in the study and used the YOI app for an 8-week period. Participants were asked to fill out three questionnaires: The Patient Health Questionnaire, 8 items (PHQ-8), the Generalized Anxiety Disorder questionnaire (GAD-7) and the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI). These three items were completed by 1,297 participants a total of four times: before starting YOI, two more times during use, and a fourth time after the 8-week usage period. Changes in PHQ8, GAD7 and ISI in participants were compared to a control group, who did not use the YOI app but completed all questionnaires (590 controls finished all questionnaires). Results: Participants reported significant decreases in depression and anxiety-related symptoms. Compared to baseline, PHQ-8 scores decreased 50% on average after the 8-week period. GAD-7 scores also decreased by 40-50% on average, and ISI scores decreased by 50%. These changes were significantly greater (p < 0.05) than that observed in the control group. Participants who reported a previous diagnosis of depression and generalized anxiety reported significantly larger decreases in PHQ-8 and GAD-7 as compared to participants with no prior diagnosis (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Regular use of the YOI intervention over an 8-week period led to significant decreases in symptoms of both depression and anxiety, as well as alleviation of insomnia.

Keywords: COVID-19; anxiety; depression; insomia; meditation; mental health; mindfullness.

PMID: 34239460 PMCID: PMC8257949 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.648029