August 24, 2017

Yoga for Depression – Does it Work?

Yoga is not just something you do to maintain a regular digestive track, it has dozens of other practical applications.  From improving your cardiovascular activity to helping you to maintain proper posture, yoga is an endlessly rewarding pursuit.  It should come as no surprise that yoga can be a tremendous help in combating depression particularly mild to moderate depression, and here’s why:

1.  Puts Life on Pause

Even if we ignore every other benefit of yoga we still have left the simple fact that yoga lends the practitioner a moment to put their life on pause.  To stop and to breathe, to stretch, and to simply feel.  This alone accounts for much of yoga’s effectiveness in dealing with stress and anxiety and depression.

The relaxation and focus that yoga offers are a major contributor to the health benefits of the practice as well as the emotional and mental benefits.  It’s hard to work out when you’re distracted or upset, but quite easy when focused.

2.  Improves Energy Levels

Depression and low energy levels, lethargy, go hand in hand.  When you’re low on energy you’re not going to want to get up and go spend time with friends or exercise, but the less time you spend exercising or doing something you enjoy, the less energy you’re going to have.  The reverse is true as well:  those who exercise tend to experience depression and lethargy far less frequently than those who don’t.

Yoga is only one of many fitness plans you may want to consider, but it is one of the best for improving energy levels.  By improving your breathing and blood flow as well as helping you to regulate your body to behave more efficiently, you may find you have a greater degree of energy and will want to engage in activity that can help to improve your outlook and relieve certain symptoms of depression.

3.  Socialization

Although yoga can be undertaken alone, a part of the appeal of yoga is the social aspect of attending the yoga class and meeting other practitioners.  In any practice, hobby, field or pursuit, it can be very difficult to make the journey alone.  Having friends and acquaintances in class, having a dedicated instructor who can help you through the tougher spots, or just being able to chat with others before and after class can add some real meaning and purpose to the journey from beginner to experienced yoga practitioner.

By going to a yoga class it encourages an end to the lethargy common to depression as well as provides a path back into social activity that is so important when battling depression.

4.  Self Improvement

The term “Kung Fu” in traditional Chinese language does not refer to the martial arts.  “Kung Fu” translates more literally to “Man’s Work. ” The two concepts get mixed up in the west because the martial arts are such a perfect metaphor for progress in any field and on any path, including yoga.

Yoga is a path to self improvement that is approached in steps both small and large.  In truth, it can be very difficult to remain depressed for somebody who is following such a path.  As you see yourself grow healthier and more attuned to your own body every day you’ll always have something to feel good about, and where you feel you can use some improvement, you will already know the steps to take to get there.

5.  Improved Health

Finally, improved health overall is perhaps the greatest benefit that you can get from yoga in terms of fighting depression.  The better you feel, physically speaking, the harder it is to remain depressed and the easier it is to enjoy life.

Study after study shows that physical and emotional well being are so closely tied together as to essentially be one and the same on many levels.  If you’re not taking care of your body then you simply cannot expect to be happy.  There’s little to be happy about when you’re unhealthy, out of shape and feeling lazy and lethargic.  The health, the energy and the proper balance that one finds through yoga can reverse the vicious cycle of depression and poor health and turn it into a positive cycle of renewal.

Ideally, yoga will be one part of a full lifestyle plan.  A yoga practitioner should take care to get a few good walks in every day, to eat better, to drink more water and to spend more time doing things that make them feel good, but even if you only do the stretches and exercises and leave the rest alone, you’re still going to see a marked improvement in your physical well being and in your mood.

Even today, decades after yoga was introduced to the western world, there is still some misunderstanding about the practice.  To be clear, yoga is not a mystical, faith-based practice.  That yoga works is something that is backed up by real science and studies, not faith and mysticism.  It’s just a series of stretches and exercises and a component of a healthy lifestyle.   Yoga works and makes people feel better over time.  The best suggestion is to try it for yourself for a few weeks and see if it works for you

 

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