Depression is a huge problem in the world today. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) have ranked depression as being one of the top three global disease burdens on the planet. It not only takes a toll on you mentally, but also physically. This is where yoga can help. Yoga has always been accepted as a way to promote calmness and relaxation, which makes it a great way to treat depression. Here are a few reasons why yoga can be used as a treatment for depression.
It can influence neurotransmitters
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to control the part of the brain that centres around pleasure. It regulates emotional responses, and gives the brain motivation, pleasurable feelings and energy. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that sends signals between the brain and the nerve system, controlling your mood balance. Having an imbalance of these neurotransmitters have been linked to depression, as both contribute to the feelings of happiness and pleasure. An imbalance happens when the brain is not naturally producing enough of one or both of these neurotransmitters, or the receptors aren’t able to receive enough of them to transmit to the brain.
There are studies that have been done that show that yoga has the ability to influence neurotransmitters in a similar way to anti-depressants. A combination of asanas and pranayama (breathing exercises) have been known to help with mood changes - helping to increase your Dopamine and Serotonin levels. Yoga can also affect the autonomic nervous system, which has a big influence on your mood.
It teaches awareness
In addition to having psychological benefits, yoga also teaches awareness. This is something that people who struggle with depression often lack, which can cause them to respond in anxious ways, like having a panic attack. Self-awareness helps you to notice what is going on with your mental state and your body, and being able to control it before it controls you. Yoga breathing techniques (pranayama) are a great way to learn this. They can help you to calm your breathing down and to focus. To know what is going on with your body and your mind. This is why people say that yoga helps you to be present and mindful. It teaches you how to stay in the moment and focus on the now.
It teaches acceptance
Yoga teaches you how to accept any given situation. This then helps you to deal with things much better. It does this by teaching you how to accept yourself, your body and your limitations. You may not be able to get into that pretzel yoga pose, but you accept this and focus on poses that you can do. Not every body is the same or is built the same way. You may not be able to touch your toes, but you may be able to bend backwards further than anyone else that you know. Accepting this will also help you accept other things in your life, because yoga teaches you how to notice how you feel; your body, your breath and your mind. And it teaches you to accept these feelings. Learning acceptance on the yoga mat will teach you how to accept situations in everyday life.
It gets the blood flowing
Yoga promotes blood flow, which increases the delivery of oxygen and improves the circulatory system. Some yoga poses temporarily cut off the blood supply of a particular organ. Then, when coming out of the pose, the blood’s pressure and volume to that organ has reached its maximum capacity and a new flow of oxygenated blood rushes in. This establishes a good heart rate, which is not only great for overall health, but for treating depression.
There are no side effects
Unlike anti-depressants, yoga has no side effects. Well none other than feeling great, both inside and out. The only side effect to doing yoga is having sore muscles. But this is temporary. A balanced autoimmune system will make your brain work better, and we already know that yoga has a positive effect on the autonomic nervous system. Therefore, yoga is a great treatment for depression, and is a great alternative to anti-depressants. It can also be used in addition to prescribed medication to help with the treatment of depression.