The physical postures of yoga practices may protect against depressive symptoms, even as life stressors increase: a moderation analysis

Rebecca A. Franklin, Michael P. Butler, Jacob A Bentley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Yoga contains sub-components related to its physical postures (asana), breathing methods (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana). To test the hypothesis that specific yoga practices are associated with reduced psychological distress, 186 adults completed questionnaires assessing life stressors, symptom severity, and experience with each of these aspects of yoga. Each yoga sub-component was found to be negatively correlated with psychological distress indices. However, differing patterns of relationship to psychological distress symptoms were found for each yoga sub-component. Experience with asana was negatively correlated with global psychological distress (r = −.21, p < .01), and symptoms of anxiety (r = −.18, p = .01) and depression (r = −.17, p = .02). These relationships remained statistically significant after accounting for variance attributable to Social Readjustment Rating Scale scores (GSI: r = −.19, p = .01; BSI Anxiety: r = −.16, p = .04; BSI Depression: r = −.14, p = .05). By contrast, the correlations between other yoga sub-components and symptom subscales became non-significant after accounting for exposure to life stressors. Moreover, stressful life events moderated the predictive relationship between amount of asana experience and depressive symptoms. Asana was not related to depressive symptoms at low levels of life stressors, but became associated at mean (t[182] = −2.73, p < .01) and high levels (t[182] = −3.56, p < .001). Findings suggest asana may possess depressive symptom reduction benefits, particularly as life stressors increase. Additional research is needed to differentiate whether asana has an effect on psychological distress, and to better understand potential psychophysiological mechanisms of action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)870-879
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology, Health and Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 9 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • moderation
  • psychological distress
  • stress
  • yoga

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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