The Surprising Benefits Of Yoga For Depression

in Depression Treatment

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Yoga is practiced throughout the world as a way to connect to a higher consciousness, for stress management, or in many cases, simply for its physical benefits.

But the uses of yoga do not stop there. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that many people also benefit from the practice of yoga for depression.

In fact, there are now many yoga classes and workshops designed specifically for people with depression.

Why Yoga Helps To Alleviate Depression

In order to understand why yoga is such a useful treatment option for depression, it’s important to understand what yoga is.

Many people think of yoga as simply a series of physical poses, but it is much more than that.

When practiced fully, yoga is a lifestyle that incorporates physical, mental and spiritual tools as way of connecting to one’s “true self” or “higher power.” Ancient yogis (practitioners of yoga) developed the practice as a way to seek enlightenment.

Enlightened beings are rarely depressed, so it stands to reason that the closer you get to an enlightened state through the practice of yoga, the less depressed you will feel.

Here are just a few things you can expect from yoga therapy for depression:

• You will feel more relaxed

• You will feel stronger

• You will breathe better

• Your mind will be calmer

• Your emotional state will improve

• Negative self talk will decrease

• You will worry less

• You will be connected to something greater than yourself (and your depression)

How It Works

The practice of yoga involves a number of activities that have specific positive effects on depression.

They are

  • Physical postures (asanas)
  • Breathing exercises (pranayama)
  • Meditation
  • Sound (nada yoga)

In general, you can think of yoga and depression as being very much at odds with each other. If you practice more yoga, you can expect to feel fewer symptoms of depression.

Studies of the benefits of yoga for depression and anxiety have shown that brain chemistry actually changes in people who practice yoga.

Specifically, when you practice yoga

  • alpha waves, which cause you to feel relaxed, increase
  • theta waves, which are related to emotions, increase
  • the pituitary gland releases more endorphins
  • serotonin levels increase
  • cortisol levels decrease, resulting in a relaxation response

Yoga Asanas For Depression

The physical exercises of yoga, which are called asanas, are practiced to prepare the body for meditation.

In other words, the goal is to calm (and strengthen) the body, then clear the mind of all the noise and chatter that keeps you from realizing your own true nature and inner strength.

Yoga poses for depression can help treat physical symptoms. As a physical exercise, yoga helps to alleviate pain and increase energy.

When you feel better physically, you can turn your attention to calming your mind and strengthening your spirit.

If you are new to yoga, it might be a good idea to take a few yoga classes with a trained teacher, preferably one who is familiar with the benefits of yoga for depression.

If you are familiar with yoga poses, you can the following poses as part of your yoga therapy for depression:

Child’s Pose – calms and quiets the mind; useful if you suffer from anxiety as well as depression

Standing Forward Bend – to connect you to your source (the Earth)

Legs Up The Wall – a grounding pose that also helps increase circulation and helps depression suffers who experience insomnia

Cat/Cow Sequence – helps stretch the spine and bring awareness to breathing

Bridge Pose, Camel Pose And Other Backbends – opens the heart


Inversions, Such As Shoulder Stand Or Headstand – increases circulation to the brain and reduces anxiety

Mountain Pose – increases your sense of inner strength

Meditation

Meditation is another part of yoga therapy for depression. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, your mind is probably very busy with negative self-talk, worry and other thoughts that make it difficult for you to feel good.

Meditation can help alleviate depression in a few different ways:

• It can be used to help cultivate mindfulness, a technique used to be in the moment and observe thoughts and emotions without judgment

• It can be practiced actively, for example by using guided visualization techniques, to reduce symptoms of depression related to post traumatic stress

• It can help calm the mind and reduce feelings of anxiety that are often related to depression

The simplest form of meditation practice used in yoga is to sit comfortable with palms resting lightly on the knees, take a few deep breaths and then simply focus on the natural rhythm of your breathe.

When thoughts arise, observe them but do not stay connected to them. Let them pass and return your attention to your breath.

Sound And Healing In Yoga

Chanting is another part of yoga practice. Most yoga classes begin and end with chanting.

You probably know that yoga practitioners often chant the sound Om, which is thought to be the universal sound or the sound that vibrates the universe.

The use of sound in yoga is based on the idea that certain tones activate specific energy centers in the brain.

In addition to the sound of Om, yoga practitioners repeat mantras, which are sounds, syllables, words or phrases that are chosen to bring about some kind of transformation.

Breathing For Mental Health

An important part of yoga practice – some would argue the most important part – is pranayama or yogic breathing. Many people, especially those who suffer from depression, do not breathe properly.

Specifically, when we are stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and we tend to breathe from our chest rather than our bellies.

The result of this inefficient breathing is that we take in much less oxygen and our energy levels become depleted.

The breathing exercises practiced in yoga help to strengthen the breath until breathing deeply from the belly becomes second nature.

Yogic breathing techniques can be practiced to

  • maximize the intake of oxygen
  • increase energy
  • calm the mind
  • decrease anxiety

Taking The Next Step

If you want to learn the practice of yoga for depression, the first step is to find a local yoga studio or teacher. If you have never practiced before, take a beginner class.

If you have practiced before, you may want to try a more advanced class, depending on your individual experience.

Once you get into a routine, you will probably find that your depression symptoms decrease dramatically with a regular yoga practice.

Remember, though, that depression is a complicated condition with many factors affecting it.

Depression bookEveryone has different needs and responds differently to the wide range of options that exist for treating and managing depression.

End Your Depression ebook gives you a better understanding of depression in all its forms and provides more ideas on how to treat your particular symptoms.

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