Can yoga help with both anxiety & depression?

Life is full of ups and downs, these include the highest highs, and the lowest lows. We all go through difficult moments that lead us to feel worried, stressed and anxious, we start questioning everything and often feel like there is no way out. Some choose to self-medicate, some overeat, some fall prey to other addictive behaviours. These approaches may have some resolve temporarily, they can serve to numb our feelings. However, they do not tackle the source of the problem.
For many who suffer from anxiety, or stress, yoga can be a very appealing option. The scientific study of yoga used in a therapeutic manner has cast light on the fact that our mental and physical health are not just closely connected, but are so interdependent that they pretty much amount to the same thing. Yoga, by nature, takes care of both body and mind, and has shown to be a fairly low-risk, high-benefit method for refining overall health.
Harvard University medical school have conducted research into the effectiveness of yoga as a treatment for mental health conditions. Their findings imply that yoga can lower the impact of “exaggerated stress responses” and could help with both anxiety and depression.

 

Here are six of our favourite poses:

CHILD'S POSE

Child’s Pose is a deeply relaxing pose, one that is often used as a place of rest in between challenging yoga sequences.

This pose can alleviate tension in the back, neck and shoulders, the same areas that many people hold their stress. Conscious and steady breathing helps to calm the nervous system.

You can stay in this pose for as long as you need to. You can also walk your hands over to the left and the right, giving you a good stretch down your sides.

CAT/COW POSE

The majority of our nerves run along our spines. When we calm our nervous systems, our whole body in turn relaxes. The cat cow pose calms the nervous system and immediately relaxes the body, releasing tension in the spinal cord. For cat/cow we synchronise our breath with our movement, making it very much a moving meditation.

This may look like an easy pose, but it is very powerful for the mind and can be extremely helpful in both warming up the body, calming the bervous system, allowing our breath and movement to work together and generally making us feel better!

BRIDGE POSE

This pose works on opening the chest, and shoulders. Consequentially the back of the neck, hip flexors, spine and thighs also get a great stretch. Keeping your heart above your head can help to stimulate blood flow, and in turn relieve stress, fatigue, anxiety and even headaches. It calms the mind and helps to reduce blood pressure.

LEGS UP THE WALL

This posture has an incredible number of benefits. If you only have 5 minutes to spare, just do this! Once you are comfortably settled into the pose, try focusing on your breath. A great drill is to work on an equal breathing ratio: count to five as you slowly inhale and then count to five again as you exhale. This is a fantastic posture for exhaustion, illness and weakened immunity. It can help to relieve headaches, anxiety and insomnia. Additionally, it has shown to be beneficial in soothing menstrual cramps.

If you struggle to keep your back on the floor with your legs raised, you can use a bolster under your hips.  

 

FORWARD BENDS AND DOWNWARD DOG

Forward folds in yoga provide your body with the flexibility it requires to stay active and comfortable, while also soothing your mind and calming your nervous system. The front of the body contracts, allowing the back of the body to lengthen, thus lengthening muscles along your spine and hamstrings. Forward folds can be very healing and can help to reduce stress and boost your mood.

Forward bend postures can be practiced standing, seated or even balancing. Working on seated postures can help you to better understand your body and can serve to provide feedback. Forward bends are comforting and calming, they support deep rest and sleep. Many people find forward bends challenging due to tight hips and hamstrings, it is important not to push too hard. Choose either a standing or a seated forward fold. It doesn’t matter how far you reach, the important thing is to release through your spine, the goal is a nice opening and a good stretch without any pain or discomfort. 

Downward Dog. This basic inversion not only improves blood flow to your brain, it also changes your perspective of the world.

That’s an added benefit whenever you feel stuck or stressed.

The best way to get into Downward Dog is to start on your hands and knees in Table Pose (Bharmanasana).

Be sure your hands are directly beneath your shoulders and your knees are underneath your hips. Keep your hands planted, tuck your toes under, then press your tailbone up in the air as you shift your weight back into your heels. Your body will form an upside down V-shape.

 

SAVASANA POSE

Savasana, or corpse pose, is the final relaxation pose. While it may seem like the easiest pose physically, it ca be the most difficult pose to master. Many struggle to stop their mind racing and simply let go and relax. In Savasana the goal is to completely surrender. This is extremely beneficial for anxiety, as we often find ourselves worrying about things that are totally beyond our control. The more we learn to let go the easier it will be to find some inner peace. Savasana gives us a few minutes of deep relaxation, self-care and rest.

 

Conclusion

We do not want to suggest that yoga can cure you, however we do believe that it can help. It can help to create new thought patterns, it can teach us how to physically calm down thus allowing our minds to follow, it provides us with challenges and teaches us how to be present. It provides the perfect bridge between physical and mental wellbeing.

 

 

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