Yoga and depression – this issue has only been studied by specialists for some time. However, the positive impact of this practice on the psychophysical condition has been known for a long time.
More and more articles about the correlation between yoga practice and its therapeutic properties in various serious diseases appear in respected scientific journals. What scientific evidence do we have that yoga helps with depression? How do practicing teachers see it?
The world of conventional medicine increasingly sees the possibility of supplementing standard therapies with other – apart from pharmacological – methods.
The list of medical conditions that yoga can help with is very long. The practice of yoga is recommended, among others, in the case of back and spine pain, and difficulties with concentration and memory, in children with dyslexia and ADHD.
Yoga also regulates the hormonal balance and alleviates the symptoms of menopause and thyroid diseases.
It also supports digestive processes and helps fight insomnia, chronic fatigue, asthma, and diabetes. The issues that have been of interest to scientists include yoga’s healing effect on depression.
Yoga and depression: A Study By Boston Scientists
One of the first significant studies experimentally confirming the natural effect of yoga on mood and well-being was conducted by scientists from the University of Boston in 2007.
Using magnetic resonance imaging, they examined the changes taking place in the brain in a group of people. Some of them were supposed to practice yoga (long-time practitioners), while the others were reading.
The results of the experiment showed that in people practicing yoga, the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain increases significantly (by 27%).
Its low concentration occurs in people with mental disorders, e.g., depression or anxiety.
Such an increase was not found in the group of readers.
The study on a group of people with diagnosed depression in partial remission showed that the inclusion of yoga as part of the treatment significantly improved the mood of patients who experienced less anxiety, anger, tension, confusion, and fatigue immediately after class than before.
The study lasted 8 weeks, during which qualified Iyengar yoga teachers conducted sessions 3 times a week.
Participants were asked to rate 20 different moods divided into 3 groups:
positive (happy, relaxed, optimistic, confident, satisfied),
negative (stressed, sad, irritated, angry, anxious, pessimistic, depressed, discouraged)
and related to condition/energy (alert, tired, exhausted, energetic, sleepy).
Clear changes in mood were felt immediately after each lesson – negative emotions decreased, positive ones increased, and “condition” improved (less tired, more relaxed, etc.)
More than 2/3 of patients achieved complete remission of the disease. Additionally, researchers found a reduction in symptoms of anxiety, anger, neurotic behavior, and emotional problems. Participation in yoga classes influenced not only depression but also the overall improvement of patient’s mental health and social functioning.
Resources: GIA: TMS Terapia
Recent research confirms that practicing yoga helps treat depression.
A group of scientists from Boston, led by Professor Streeter, have published another study’s results. The main goal was to test the impact of Iyengar yoga practice in combination with relaxation and breathing techniques on alleviating depression symptoms and to determine the optimal therapeutic “dose”.
For this purpose, patients suffering from depression were divided into two groups. For 12 weeks, one of the groups practiced yoga twice a week (plus three times at home), and the other had classes three times a week (plus four times alone at home).
In addition, the subjects participated in several dozen minutes of breathing exercises each time. A significant improvement in the symptoms of the disease was observed in both groups, in people taking antidepressants and those without pharmacological treatment. Greater improvement was observed in the group of intensive yoga program, however, exercising twice a week (plus at home) also brings satisfactory results.
Asanas for depression
While the type of yoga choice is not so important, some asanas are particularly beneficial in depression and depressed mood states.
Research has shown that some yoga poses help relieve tension and stress and positively affect well-being.
These are mainly positions that open the chest, e.g., bends backwards, and inverted positions, e.g., candle, handstand, or headstand.
These asanas directly affect circulation, which can contribute to a good mood and overall mental well-being. Twists and slack positions of the diaphragm also have therapeutic potential.
Depression is often correlated with addictions. If you struggle with mental issues we recommend finding professional help in an addiction treatment center.
Stress-relieving items include:
- A dog with its head down – this position deeply oxygenates the brain and allows you to get rid of tension in the neck and shoulders.
- Warrior – a position conducive to concentration, gives self-confidence and courage.
- Pose with arms raised – a position that strengthens the sense of self-confidence, brings stability, and restores internal balance.
- Cobra pose – opens the chest and thus promotes deepening of the breath. It stretches the lower back and gives you energy.
- Intensive stretching in a deep bend – this position relaxes and stretches mainly the legs and back. It relaxes and removes fatigue and drowsiness.
- The child’s position calms the mind, relaxes, and gives a sense of inner harmony.
- Sternum – increases the spine’s flexibility, improves a positive mood, and minimizes anxiety and anxiety.
- Corpse pose – calms the mind and body, regenerates, soothes the nerves, reduces stress, and promotes deep relaxation.
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