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Does Yoga Help With Depression

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Can Yoga Help with Anxiety or Depression? What Does the Research Say?

When I was almost 16 years old, my parents put me in an institution. An open institution, which means I could go to school, was allowed to go out with friends and could go home during weekends. Of course there were many rules to follow, but damn, that place really did me good! The institution became my new home since my parents house didnt feel like that anymore. The household issues between my father and me grew into a very toxic situation, which resulted in me not wanting to return to their house during the weekends. After several months I found peace with living at the institution and felt like having a new home.

What We Recommend For Depression

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

References

Gallagher, A., Kring, D., & Whitley, T. . Effects of yoga on anxiety and depression for high risk mothers on hospital bedrest. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 38. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.101079.


Marefat, M., Peymanzad, H., & Alikhajeh, Y. . The Study of the Effects of Yoga Exercises on Addicts Depression and Anxiety in Rehabilitation Period. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, 1494-1498. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.10.289.

Morin, A. . How Yoga Can Help Your Depression. Verwellmind. Retrieved from .

Nyer, M., Gerbarg, P. L., Silveri, M. M., Johnston, J., Scott, T. M., Nauphal, M., Owen, L., Nieslen, G. H., Mischoulon, D., Brown, R. P., Fava, M., & Streeter, C. C. . A randomized controlled dosing study of Iyengar yoga and coherent breathing for the treatment of major depressive disorder: Impact on suicidal ideation and safety findings. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 37, 136142. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2018.02.006.

Panasevich, J. . Can Yoga Treat Depression? U.S. News. Retrieved from .

Yoga As Depression Treatment

Depressed? Try downward-facing dog! Research shows that yoga offers plenty of depression-fighting benefits. Here’s how to get started.


Depression can make it hard to get your body moving but theres one healthy exercise that might just be the best thing for you: Yoga.

This ancient Indian practice of exercise, breathing, and meditation has been around for about 5,000 years, and now researchers are finding out why millions of Americans practice yoga to ease depression, anxiety, and stress. In fact, the American Yoga Association says just a few minutes of yoga three times every day can balance your body and mind and get your depression on the run.

How does it work? The benefits of yoga for depression have been studied since the 1970s. One recent study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine looked at brain scans of people practicing yoga and found that the exercise boosted their levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric GABA . In addition, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that there is growing evidence to support the following observations:

  • Yoga may help you learn to manage stress better.
  • Yoga may improve your mood and sense of well-being.
  • Yoga may positively alter your brain and blood chemicals.
  • Yoga may help you cope with anxiety, insomnia, and depression.

Finding the Best Type of Yoga for Depression

Getting Started With Yoga


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Can Yoga Help With Depression What Does The Research Say

You may have heard good things about yoga and how it can help anxiety and depression, but what does the research show? Dr. Maren Nyer, a leading expert and researcher on yoga studies and innovative treatments for depression and will share information about yoga and anxiety and depression and current medical research on this topic.

How Yoga Helps With Depression Anxiety And Addiction

Get Rid of Depression using the Internet and Yoga!

There are many types of yoga, of course from the more aerobic power yoga to a meditative gentle yoga. Hatha yoga, the most studied, combines physical postures and controlled breathing with short periods of deep relaxation. I have found the most benefit from Bikram yoga, or hot yoga, a sequence of 26 Hatha yoga positions and two breathing exercises designed by Bikram Choudhury to engage and heal all of the systems of your body.

According to Sara Curry, Bikram yoga instructor and creator of the Sober Yogis program in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, medical miracles can happen when a person commits to a regular practice. In her TEDx talk, she tells the story of David, one of her yoga students who had a pacemaker surgically implanted in his chest. Six weeks after surgery, he began to practice with her six days a week. After only four weeks of yoga, David returned for a checkup with his cardiologist, and the doctor took him off three of his six medications and cut the remaining dosage of the other three in half.

Our bodies can recover from tremendous amounts of trauma and chronic abuse, Curry explains in her talk.


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Yoga Usually Involves Some Form Of Exercise

The first and most obvious reason why yoga helps depression is that most types of yoga involve the holding of a posture, which involves physical exertion – exercise. Even modest amounts of exercise can significantly improve depression. There is ample research showing this effect. It is hypothesized that exercise enhances neuroplasticity, which allows the brain to change out of its depressed activity and signaling patterns and return to normal. For more details on exercise helping depression, see my article, “The Surprising Results of Exercise for Depression.”

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One limitation in the study is that there was no control group, so the researchers couldnt assess how the yoga treatments compared to participants who didnt do yoga or who did a different kind of intervention, like exercise. Another is that the sample size is quite small.

But another, larger study out earlier this month found that just 35 minutes of exercise per day significantly reduced the risk of having a depressive episode in those who were at higher genetic risk of depression. Among 8,000 participants, each four-hour chunk of weekly exercise reduced the risk of a future depressive episode by 17%. Even low-intensity forms of exerciselike yogawere effective.

Yogas benefits, however, dont seem to be solely derived from the physical aspects. Especially when coupled with breath exercises, yoga seems to tap into the same brain networks as meditationand lots of research has shown that the practice affects the stress response, changes reactivity to fear, and even quiets the self-referential centers of the brain, which appear to be particularly active in people with depression and anxiety. Slow breathing alone has been shown to affect a subgroup of brain cells responsible for calm behavior, which may also be part of why yoga and meditation are effective for certain mental health issues.


More work will probably be needed before specific doses of yoga are prescribed for mental health, but it can certainly be used in conjunction with other, tried-and-true treatments.

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Need Inspiration To Start Doing Yoga

Even if you are convinced that yoga could be helpful for your mental wellness, you may understandably feel a bit overwhelmed or skeptical.

You may think that it will be too hard, that you are too inflexible, or that you wont get the results youre hoping for.

Watch the Video

Arthur Boorman, a disabled Gulf War veteran, was told he would never walk unassisted again.


He took up yoga, lost 140 pounds, and can now run and do headstands!

His story is a poignant reminder that you should never underestimate what you can accomplish or let doctors tell you what you cant do.

Its a remarkable testimony to the benefits of yoga as well!

Supported Bridge Pose Over Crossed Bolsters

Yoga for Depression – Stress & Anxiety Relief Flow for Beginners
  • Crisscross one bolster over another in the shape of a plus sign.

  • With your knees bent, lie down lengthwise on the top bolster and slide off until your shoulders just reach the floor.

  • Extend the legs straight, roll the shoulders under, and open the chest so that it lifts and spreads to the sides.

  • Rest your arms by your sides and stay for 5 to 10 minutes.

  • If your back is tender, place a block or another bolster under the feet.

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Depression And Yoga Therapy

If your autonomic nervous system is balanced out, then the rest of the brain works better

Dr. Chris Streeter, associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine

Anyone who has been diagnosed with depression will meet diagnostic criteria, sharing commonalities with others who suffer with this mental health issue. But despite this, it is still a deeply personal illness, and yoga can be part of a personalised response which takes into account both mind and body.

The experience of depression varies from individual to individual. Depression can develop the wake of difficult circumstances, or it may have no definable cause. Similarly, the illness may last for months, or appear intermittently over the course of decades. Symptoms can also manifest themselves in varying ways for example, one person might be affected by a draining and persistent sense of sadness, but another may experience emotional numbness and lack of interest in life.

Medication is, for many people, a vital and sometimes life-saving intervention, and doctors will often also recommend counselling or other psychological therapies. Yoga therapy offers an additional treatment which can be adapted to the individual needs of the patient, while also empowering them with a tool they can immediately take into their everyday life. This is particularly pertinent considering that people can sometimes wait months for access to talking therapies.

Talk To Your Physician

If youre feeling depressed, or your current depression treatment isnt working as well as youd like, talk to your physician about whether yoga might be an option. Your physician may be able to help you find the most helpful type of yoga for your depression. Your physician may also be able to recommend a good yoga instructor or program that may reduce your symptoms.

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People Recovering From Addiction

People recovering from addiction typically suffer from depression or anxiety, or both. A study in 2011 by Marefat and others showed that yoga had considerable effects on improving the symptoms of depression and anxiety in individuals in a rehabilitation facility. These participants engaged in yoga thrice a week for an hour each for five weeks.

The study reported that the benefits of yoga were seen in physical aspects and improved the nervous system and hormonal balance, which helped decrease depressive symptoms.

These findings suggest that people recovering from substance use disorders could benefit from yoga as a complementary treatment. It can increase the effectiveness of medication and psychotherapy.

Yoga May Ease Chronic Depression

This Type Of Yoga Can Help Reduce Depression

Another study presented at the convention revealed that yoga may also be beneficial for chronic depression, as well as stress and anxiety.

Study co-author Nina Vollbehr, of the Center for Integrative Psychiatry in the Netherlands, and colleagues enrolled 12 adults who had been living with depression for an average of 11 years.

For the study, each participant was required to take part in a yoga program, which involved a 2.5-hour yoga session once per week for 9 weeks.

Levels of depression, anxiety, stress, rumination, and worry were assessed before and just after the yoga program, as well as 4 months later.

The researchers found that levels of depression, anxiety, and stress decreased throughout the course of the yoga program, and these results remained 4 months after the program ceased.

While the participants saw no reduction in rumination and worry during the yoga program, there was a decrease in these areas 4 months after the program ended.

âThese studies suggest that yoga-based interventions have promise for depressed mood and that they are feasible for patients with chronic, treatment-resistant depression,â says Vollbehr.

Taken together, the researchers believe that their studies indicate that yoga may be a feasible treatment option for depression, particularly for those with a poor response to current therapies.

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The Benefits Of Bikram And Hatha Yoga

In one study â conducted by Lindsey Hopkins, Ph.D., of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center in California, and colleagues â involved 23 male veterans.

Twice weekly for a total of 8 weeks, each participant engaged in a session of hatha yoga, which is a type of yoga that focuses on a combination of physical exercises, meditation, and breathing exercises.

The researchers found that participants who had high scores on a depression scale prior to the 8-week yoga intervention demonstrated a significant reduction in depression scores after the 8 weeks.

What is more, participants were found to enjoy the practice, rating enjoyment of the sessions as 9.4 on a scale of 1 to 10.

In another study of 52 women aged 25 to 45 years, Sarah Shallit â of Alliant International University in San Francisco, CA â and colleagues randomized more than half of the participants to twice-weekly sessions of Bikram yoga for a total of 8 weeks.

Bikram yoga â popularized in the 1970s by Indian yoga teacher Bikram Choudhury â is a type of yoga consisting of 26 postures.

The remaining study participants were wait-listed for the Bikram yoga sessions for 8 weeks, and they acted as the controls.

The depression levels of both groups were assessed at four time points: at study baseline, at weeks 3 and 8, and at 1 week after the yoga sessions had ceased.

Strengthen Yourself With Awareness

In addition to its physiological benefits, yoga teaches awareness, an invaluable skill for people who struggle with anxiety or depression. If Id had more awareness that night in the theater, I could have responded differently to my bodys cues and perhaps been able to stave off a full panic attack. I would have noticed my shallow breathingoften a sign of anxietyand tried yoga breathing techniques to help me focus and calm down. Or I might have noticed earlier in the day that I was exhausted and in no condition to be in such a stimulating environment. I might have even observed the effects of some deeper issues going onat that time my job was miserable, my relationship was unstable, and I was sad being far away from family without a sense of home. If Id been able to recognize any of those things, I could have made different choices along the way and perhaps reduced my suffering.

Usually, the first way Westerners learn to build awareness in yoga is by practicing the poses. But the myriad instructions heard in class arent just designed to improve your poses. They give your busy mind something to focus on and therefore keep you in the present moment. For people with anxiety, this is a particular blessing. When youre anxious, you cant focus on anything because you feel overwhelmed, says Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., P.T., who wrote 30 Essential Yoga Poses. Having something concrete to focus on, like a pose or your breath or a mantra, is very settling.

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The Childhood Memories Scarred Me

Having an awkward relation with your parents isnt easy. Not being able to connect with your sister is heartbreaking. And not being able to live a normal childhood-life sucks. I used to block out most of my memories from the past as I had no need to recall those awful feelings. But I did remember feeling fear whenever my father was around, even after moving out. I also remembered the many fights and heartbreaking words weve shared. I blame him, because I wont blame my mother. I know she wasnt raised like this.

How Yoga Therapy Works

Yoga for Depression

Dr. Mason Turner of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group says yoga therapy can be very powerful in the treatment of depression. Even if yoga isnt your forte, the combination of meditation and physical movement provide two important elements for relieving depression. Meditation helps bring a person into the present moment and allows them to clear their minds. Controlled, focused movements also help strengthen the body-mind connection.

Breathing exercises are effective in reducing depressive symptoms, according to one study. You may find yoga helpful as the exercise focuses on deep, controlled breathing.

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Is Yoga More Effective Than Clinical Treatment

While many people may practice yoga to relieve symptoms of depression, it may not work for everyone.

In many cases, particularly when an individual has major depressive disorder, yoga may not work well as a replacement for clinical treatments for depression including:

Yoga is often a good choice as a complementary treatment option, in combination with therapy, medication, and other coping tools that are effective for depression.

While proponents often claim the yoga high experienced during practice can provide a boost in mood, its important to keep in mind that this emotional state is often fleeting. While yoga can offer a temporary respite from depression symptoms, its not a quick fix.

When an activity or a substance is used to escape reality, it can become problematic, Malaspina says.

The yoga mat can be a safe space to explore how we feel and what we think in a nonjudgmental way, but if we find ourselves using the practice as a tool to distract us, then that could possibly create additional challenges, she says.

How Your Brain Reacts

Stress and anxiety are major triggers of depression, and meditation can alter your reaction to those feelings. “Meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious,” says Dr. John W. Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Meditation has been found to change certain brain regions that are specifically linked with depression. For instance, scientists have shown that the medial prefrontal cortex becomes hyperactive in depressed people. The mPFC is often called the “me center” because this is where you process information about yourself, such as worrying about the future and ruminating about the past. When people get stressed about life, the mPFC goes into overdrive.

Another brain region associated with depression is the amygdala, or “fear center.” This is the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response, which triggers the adrenal glands to release the stress hormone cortisol in response to fear and perceived danger.

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