How does yoga affect depression and wellbeing?

More studies are using randomised controlled trials to look at the relationship between yoga and depression. Recent studies, including those by Harvard Medical School, suggest that yoga can:

  • reduce the impact of stress

  • help with anxiety and depression

  • be a self-soothing technique similar to meditation, relaxation, and exercise

  • improve energy

Yoga is a physical exercise that involves different body poses, breathing techniques, and meditation. Yoga may help with depression and associated symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating or loss of energy.

Many people use yoga to manage:

  • mental health and emotional difficulties, such as stress, anxiety, or depression

  • conditions and disorders, such as ongoing low back pain

  • chronic or long-term pain

  • overall health and well-being

Yoga is easily accessible and when practised regularly can help built both mental resilience and physical health. Yoga can be gentle or challenging, depending on the style but in any case, any yoga posture can be adapted. Most importantly, so long as you are present in your mind and breathing, then you are accessing yoga and benefiting your well-being.

How yoga works as a therapy

Dr. Mason Turner of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group says yoga therapy “can be very powerful in the treatment of depression.” Even if yoga isn’t 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. You may find yoga helpful as the exercise focuses on deep, controlled breathing.

 

To improve mood and relaxation

As exercise, yoga is a natural way to increase serotonin production. According to the Journal of Psychiatry and NeuroscienceTrusted Source, serotonin production plays a role in the treatment of depression. Serotonin is believed to play a major role in happiness. Studies also suggests people with depression have lower serotonin levels.

Yoga is also especially helpful because of its gentle, calming, and fluid nature. Each pose is flexible, so people of all levels can practice. Your instructor will emphasise breathing, concentration, and smooth movement. They’ll also encourage you to focus on positive images to calm the body and mind.

To reduce stress and anxiety

Yoga also increases your heart rate variability (HRV), or change in time between heart beats, by increasing the relaxation response over the stress response in the body. A high HRV means that your body is better at self-monitoring or adapting, particularly to stress.

Yoga can also:

  • reduce resting heart rate

  • lower blood pressure

  • ease breathing

  • increase pain tolerance

Styles of yoga

You may be familiar with some yoga poses, but different styles of yoga vary in speed and approach. Try to explore which style of yoga works best for you. Now is the ideal time to try different types of yoga via youtube for example.

 

Style of yoga Description:

  • Hatha - incorporates gentler and slower paced movements, best suited for beginners

  • Vinyasa - links breathing and movement together, pacing starts slow and gradually get faster

  • Bikram - takes place in a hot room where you practice a set series of moves to help blood flow

  • Ashtanga - focuses on quick, sequenced poses and is more physically demanding

  • Hot - is in a heated room but without set poses

  • Iyengar - uses props, such as blocks, chairs, and straps, to help you find proper body alignment

  • Kundalini - combines repetitive exercises with intense breathing for a more physically demanding exercise

  • Restorative - moves slowly through five or six poses for an hour to help you relax

  • Yin - aims to restore length and elasticity to your muscles through seated and back poses

 

At H.E.A.L Holistic, we practice a blend of several different styles, including Hatha, Vinyasa, Kundalini and Restorative. Our focus is not on flexibility or even the physical benefits, as those objectives are fed by and continue to feed our ego, competitiveness and can even contribute to more anxiety. Physical benefits come naturally as a by-product of regular practice. Instead our focus is on connecting the mind and body and on self-healing. By using mindful movements to find a stillness, and developing and then using the breath as an anchor which we can access in times of challenge and stress, healing yoga helps to develop a stronger sense of inner calm, can increase resilience to stress, help relieve anxiety and boost your overall sense of well-being and happiness.

E: justbreathe@heal-holistic.co.uk  | T: 01704 628639

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