Yoga for Anxiety and Depression

Yoga for depression and Anxiety

We all experience anxiety and depression at some time of our life. Normally it is helpful reaction to a stressful demanding situation. Depression and anxiety take a form of disease when they affect you for months and disturb the quality of life, then it is mandatory to take medical help.

According to WHO-Depression is the leading cause of disability as measured by YLDs and the 4th  leading contributor to the global burden of disease (DALYs) in 2000. Calculated for all ages, both sexes today, depression is already the 2nd cause of DALYs in the age category 15-44 years for both sexes combined.

What is Anxiety-?

1.  Anticipatory anxiety- This is helpful response, helps us to anticipate danger and makes us ready to take caution and adapt to situation in healthy way.

2.   Panic or intense Anxiety- This is inability to cope with demanding situation.

What is Depression-?

It is another form of response to emotionally demanding situation and can be of 2 types

1.     Mild form of depression takes you into inner being and opens up the inner wisdom and helps you to move towards a mature personality.

2.    Severe depression is one which leads to chemical imbalance. Its correction can be with medication is required.

Clinical depression is a persistently sad, hopeless, and sometimes agitated state that profoundly lowers the quality of life and that, if untreated, can result in suicide. Doctors here aim, with drugs and sometimes psychotherapy, to raise their patients’ moods, but yoga has much more to offer.

 Are Antidepressants Bad?

Using drugs to raise the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is found low in people of depression antidepressants like  selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed.

There are researches going on to find the side effects of antidepressants.

Study author, Lisa Cosgrove, PhD, and her Harvard University colleagues have come to conclude that antidepressants increase the risk for breast or ovarian cancer. The study was published online April 6 in PLoS ONE

The current issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry is associates antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor s (SSRIs), with raising the risk of having a stroke. A growing body of evidence suggests that SSRIs may induce bleeding complications and vasoconstriction of the large cerebral arteries, which can result in ischemic stroke.

How do we understand Depression and Anxiety from Yoga point of view?

Anxiety is manifested speed of mind which is visible in apprehensions, palpations, restlessness, tremors etc.

Depression is unmanifested speed, the packed up speed which is not visible outside. Just like in a piece of rock where enormous energy and activity of electronic movement at extreme speed is not visible, the neuromuscular and emotional speed is locked up manifesting as depression, inertia, lack of interest, lack of appetite, constipation, insomnia, suicidal thoughts etc.

How can yoga therapy help Anxiety and Depression?

Yoga teaches us the basic lesson of life, i.e “One thing that is constant in life is change”. Hence make our mind ready to accept the situation as it is and prevent us to fall in loop of anxiety or depression.

Slowing the speed of mind, thoughts through different tricks make yoga a successful tool to handle depression and anxiety. Yoga therapy is designed in such a way that the movements are repeated with jerks helps come out of loop of speedy thoughts followed by slow movements. This set is repeated for few minutes followed by slowing down and leading to mediation. A new habit is built to switch off the mind to silence and system is trained not to get lost in anxiety and depression loop. Through yoga therapy we quieten their restless minds, put them in touch with their deeper purpose in life, and connect them with an inner source of calm and joy that yoga insists is their birthright.  This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. Practicing yoga is another way to raise the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitter linked to depression and does help fight depression. Integrated approach of yoga therapy may help people take them off antidepressants. This should be done only with guidance of doctor and expert yoga therapist.

Is there some evidence to show Yoga has helped people in anxiety and depression?

1.   Researches show Yoga May Elevate Brain GABA Levels, Suggesting Possible Treatment For Depression

Participants brains were scanned before and after the study using magnetic resonance spectroscopic (MRS) imaging to measure GABA levels, while they were also asked questions about their psychological well being throughout the study.

The chemical, GABA, is essential to the function of brain and central nervous system and which helps promote a state of calm within the body. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other widespread anxiety disorders. Those who did yoga reported lower levels of anxiety and increases in their mood than the walkers.

2.   Dr. Horia Crisan, a medical graduate from Germany studied the effect of 4 weeks of práïáyáma  practice in 19 cases of general anxiety and showed statistically significant reduction in their anxiety scores, pulse rate, blood pressure, and also a reduction in the urinary excretory product (urinary VMA) of adrenaline.

Further, 129 subjects with different forms of anxiety including panic disorders, phobias and general anxiety disorder were studied during 1996-98. Within 2 weeks, the self rating anxiety scores, psycho physiological check list and the anti anxiety meditation scores reduced significantly after the practice of integrated approach of yoga therapy.

3. Dr. Jayakiramiah in 45 subjects with melancholia, compared the efficiency of Electroconvulsive therapy, imipramine and Sudarshan Kriya Yoga and concluded that Sudarshan Kriya Yoga is potential alternative to drugs as a form of treatment.

What practices are advised to be done?

A number of breathing practices like lengthening the exhalation relative to the inhalation,  simply observing your thoughts help reduce symptoms of anxiety. Scientific studies suggest that left-nostril breathing can effectively reduce symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (and it’s probably also useful for less extreme forms of anxiety).

Regular practice of both asana like Shashank asana  (Hare pose), chakra asana ( wheel pose), sarvang asana, hal asana ( plow pose) etc and Sun salutation and  pranayama like nadi shudi (alternative breathing)  leads to internal awareness and in the longer term, meditation and self-study (svadhyaya) offer the hope of getting at the deeper causes of the problem..


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