Heat for Depression

Many people with depression have found Bikram Yoga to be an extremely helpful way of improving their mood and we are strong proponent of the value of yoga in general.

The new article in the prestigious psychiatric journal JAMA Psychiatry raises the possibility that the heat in Bikram Yoga may also be helpful.

In this study 30 patients were randomized to receive a single session of whole-body hyperthermia or a control that involved all of the aspects of the treatment and setting except for the heat.

Obviously there are a number of limitations to the study, including the fact that it was a very small study, and the fact that the control condition did not perfectly match the active treatment condition. Three-quarters of the people in the control condition felt that they were getting active treatment but 95% of those receiving the heat felt that they had received the active treatment.

Don’t try this at home warning.

The study involved a sophisticated apparatus using water filtered infrared radiatio and measuring the rise in core body temperature with ingested monitors. Bikram Yoga may be the closest you can come but this treatment is definitely not something that you can easily replicate.

Still, the result is intriguing and we hope to hear more about this treatment.


Whole-Body Hyperthermia for the Treatment of Major Depressive DisorderA Randomized Clinical Trial. Clemens W. Janssen, PhD; Christopher A. Lowry, PhD; Matthias R. Mehl, PhD; John J. B. Allen, PhD; Kimberly L. Kelly, MPA; Danielle E. Gartner, BA; Angelica Medrano, BA; Tommy K. Begay, PhD; Kelly Rentscher, MA; Joshua J. White, BS; Andrew Fridman, BS; Levi J. Roberts, BA; Megan L. Robbins, PhD; Kay-u Hanusch, MSc; Steven P. Cole, PhD; Charles L. Raison, MD. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online May 12, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1031
Hanusch KU, Janssen CH, Billheimer D, Jenkins I, Spurgeon E, Lowry CA, Raison CL. Whole-body hyperthermia for the treatment of major depression: associations with thermoregulatory cooling. Am J Psychiatry. 2013 Jul;170(7):802-4. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12111395. PubMed PMID: 23[important][/important][important][/important]820835.