This article is brought to you by Rachel Stagnaro who runs Zen Kids Yoga in Washington. Follow her on Instagram and view her website for more information. Keep an eye out for the other three articles in her series
Since the 1970s, meditation and other stress-reduction techniques have been studied as possible treatments for depression and anxiety. It’s only recent that yoga has been included in these studies, as an effective stress management technique. Recently Harvard Medicine did a study and found that yoga can help:
- 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 powerful in the treatment of depression because of three reasons: meditation, exercise, and breath. Meditation helps bring a person into the present moment and allows them to clear their minds. Exercise releases endorphins (those happy hormones) and these controlled, focused movements also help strengthen the body-mind connection. And breathing exercises help to calm the mind and reverse your body’s stress response.
Yoga as a way to decrease our stress response
These three items in conjunction (meditation, exercise or yoga asana/poses, and breathing) can reduce the impact of stress and be helpful in the treatment of both anxiety and depression. By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physical symptoms — reduces the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and eases respiration.
Yoga as a way to improve mood and relaxation
As exercise, yoga is a natural way to increase serotonin production. According to the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, serotonin production plays a role in the treatment of depression. Serotonin is believed to play a major role in happiness. 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 emphasize breathing, concentration, and smooth movement. They’ll also encourage you to focus on positive images to calm the body and mind.
Yoga as a way to manage anxiety and depression
Yoga also increases your heart rate variability (HRV), or change in time between heartbeats, 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.
Pranayama (or yoga breathwork) is a great way to help your body manage anxiety, stress, and depression during an uncomfortable situation. Breathing exercises can be used to reduce physical stress and increase relaxation. Breathing exercises are most effective when:
- You’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed and want to calm down quickly.
- You’re stressed and you want to think more clearly.
- You want to release tension in your body.
- You’re feeling frustrated and want to ‘slow things down.’
- You’re in the middle of an altercation and you want to feel more centered.
Stay tuned for more articles with specific breathing techniques for anxiety, depression, and stress. [WooZoneProducts asin=”B017198D8S”][/WooZoneProducts]