Yoga And Depression

Mira Khreino

Statistics show that one in four people will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life. The number of diagnoses of clinical depression is on the rise. Whereas a depressive episode may be associated with life circumstances, for example, the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or problems at the workplace, not all causes of depression are straight-forward. Typical symptoms may include a persistent (over 2 weeks) loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities and/or depressed mood; impaired functioning and occupational, social or educational difficulties; irritability and difficulties in concentration; fatigue and loss of energy; feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem; changes in eating and sleeping habits.

Even though there are a variety of medical, pharmaceutical and cognitive treatments for depression, research shows that more alternative and natural therapies can very much compliment and improve the results of all treatment programmes.

Part of the treatment package for many people experiencing mental health difficulties, including depression and anxiety, is a gentle exercise regime, yoga, and meditation. Many medical doctors have preached that such activities are an essential component of an effective treatment plan for depression.

Yoga can improve self-esteem, energy levels and mood, which are all impacted by depression. Furthermore, the neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA have been shown to be significantly lower in those with depression. Seratonin is currently regarded as the primary neurotransmitter indicated in mood regulation and balance and GABA is associated with effective nervous system functioning, calming fear and anxiety.

Recent research indicates that the exercises in yoga stimulate serotonin availability in the brain and increase GABA levels. A new Boston University study showed that GABA levels were higher in those practising regular yoga than those who performed more strenuous gym exercises.

Energy levels are often impacted by depression. Running and more energetic classes (dancing/combat etc.) can seem like quite a feat. Yoga is a lower impact, yet in many cases more effective in alleviating mood than gym classes.

Yoga not only strengthens the whole body, increases flexibility, trains practitioners to breath more calmly and deeply, but also involves mental relaxation which results in a sense of inner peace, harmony and tranquillity.

Some other benefits of yoga for depression include:

  • Calming the mind which is often ruminating with negative thoughts.
  • Getting out of the house and meeting like-minded people (social isolation is typical in individuals suffering from depression).
  • The meditative aspects of yoga help the connection to the here and now, the present moment.
  • Improving the body-mind connection, essential in overcoming depression.
  • Training the practitioner to create a little distance between the thoughts themselves and the reaction to the thoughts.
  • Slowing down of mental chatter by focusing on the breath.
  • Fostering self-acceptance and self-nurturing.

Yoga, along with a comprehensive treatment plan can help people suffering from depression. Yoga relaxation techniques allow the mind to calm, and a calm mind is necessary to see things with a little more perspective and clarity. This often allows us to find solutions to problems which we were previously unable to think of previously. And even though some yoga poses may seem simple, they can have very powerful effects on both body and mind, decreasing heart and breathing rate as well as allowing the mind to become tranquil and serene.

This a guest blog article from Healing Expert and yoga instructor Mira Khreino.

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