How Yoga Helps to Relieve Depression

*Depression and other mental health issues are serious and should be evaluated by a professional. For counseling in Indianapolis or Greenwood, call Sunstone Health & Wellness today.

Today’s post is the second in a 4-part series on how yoga can help with depression.  It is brought to you by guest blogger, Jennifer Minchin.  Jen is a yogi, constant explorer, and lover of the written word.

People worldwide suffer from depression and its incidence is on the rise. In many cases, depression and stress go hand-in-hand. If you just look around at how over stimulated people are today, it’s no wonder. Thanks to technology, you’re always accessible, you’re constantly being hit with more information that anyone can possibly digest, and that’s just life with your smart phone.

Chronic stress can do incredible damage to your body starting with your sympathetic nervous system. That’s the one that kick starts your “fight or flight” system and releases the hormone cortisol. If cortisol is chronically high, it can do some real damage to your body, including a lowered immune system, gastrointestinal disorders, endocrine system disorders and cardiovascular issues. And since everything in our bodies is interconnected, you can bet the damage doesn’t just stop there. Chronic stress can also reach out to your limbic system causing memory damage. All of this, and it can cause or worsen your depression. Many findings show that people suffering from depression have higher levels on cortisol, which is a stress hormone.

How can we take back our health and our mental wellness? For one, studies have shown that yoga can have a measurable impact on those with depression, even after just one class. Just what makes yoga so good for depression?

Yoga helps in several ways. It asks that you focus on your breathing, which calms your system and lowers adrenaline. As you move through your yoga practice, one of the goals is to focus on your breath and try to keep it as calm and steady in the hardest poses as it is in the easy poses. It also gives your mind something to focus on instead of the hundreds of thoughts that are constantly running through your head. Steadying your breath can also lower your heart rate.

The opening and closing chants that sometimes take place also help to lower your heart rate and blood pressure. One study showed that participants had their lowest heart rate of the day while chanting. (Not into chanting? Why not sing in the car or the shower? It’s the vibrations that do a body good.)

Certain poses activate your parasympathetic nervous system, helping your body to relax. Your parasympathetic nervous system is your rest and digest system. It’s the opposite of the sympathetic and it’s the one that is active when you are calm. Cortisol levels are lower when you’re in “rest and digest” mode.

Yoga releases muscle tension. If you’re upset or stressed, your muscles tense. Releasing that tension automatically helps to relax the body. That’s why massages feel so good! The stretching and lengthening of your muscles in yoga has that same relaxing affect.

Tension isn’t the only thing that your muscles store—a lot of emotion is also held deep within your muscle tissue. Certain yoga poses can even trigger deep-seated feelings and you may find yourself in a pose, suddenly crying or completely elated. So, a regular yoga can also help you work through things that are stored beneath the surface.

Like anything, the effects of yoga are cumulative, so if you can really stick with it, you’ll definitely see lasting results.

If you are so someone you know is depressed or looking for counseling in Indianapolis or Greenwood areas, contact us to learn how we can help.