People with serious depression sometimes find it difficult to partake in normal day to day activities. About half of those that are taking prescribed anti-depressants never fully recover from the disease, and there can be many side effects. The use of natural therapies to help with depression symptoms is increasing, and many sufferers are once again able to live normal lives.
Yoga is a combination of poses, breathing techniques and meditation, that promotes holistic well-being by encouraging a healthy mind-body connection. Natural stretching movements strengthen muscles and align the body, while simultaneously focusing on breathing techniques calms and quiets the mind.
Stretching Away Stress – How Yoga Can Alleviate Depression Symptoms
Yoga, like many other forms exercise, boosts the body’s production of serotonin. This in turn produces feelings of happiness. Yoga stretches are flexible, so that individuals at any stage of fitness will be able to do them, as well as the fluid movements which give a heightened awareness of self. One of the major causes of depression is dwelling on the past, and the meditative aspect of yoga helps to bring a person into the present moment. The deep, controlled breathing also reduces stress, which is a major player in ongoing depression.
People who practise yoga regularly have been shown to contain higher levels of the amino acid GABA, which helps to ensure that the brain and central nervous system are functioning adequately. Our bodies naturally adapt to stressful situations, but the use of medications and an overwhelming increase in stress in modern society, as well as a disconnect from our minds can cause a deviation from this. Yoga increases the change in time between heartbeats, which helps the body adequately self-monitor allowing for a healthy response to emotional stimuli.
Physical symptoms of depression include pain as well as slouching. Yoga helps to increase pain tolerance and encourages better posture. The latter has been shown to increase confidence, enthusiasm and energy levels in individuals, which are all affected negatively by depression.
Research Confirms What Holistic Healers Know
A recent collaboration between Harvard and Columbia Universities recorded a 12-week health intervention involving 30 people. All the subjects had been diagnosed with depressive disorder, but were either taking no medication or had started within the last three months. The individuals were split into two groups: one of which did yoga three times per week and the other twice weekly. Both groups participated in lyengar yoga, which focuses on detail, precision and posture alignment. In addition to the yoga exercises, the subjects practised coherent breathing (taking five breaths per minute).
Researchers checked the participants’ levels of depressive symptoms using a Depression Inventory Measure, throughout the study. Both groups experienced a decline in their symptoms, but the participants who did yoga three days per week achieved lower depression scores overall. The health industry is intrigued by this, as this shows that yoga can be used instead of medication for more lasting results and to avoid possible side effects.