Yoga for Depression and Anxiety: A Holistic Approach

Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice derived in India; as a major practice now in the United States, the Yoga in America study found that 20.4 million Americans are practicing yoga each year! Yoga involves a variety of positions and breathing techniques to help soothe the mind and body. Yoga has been shown to increase a person’s strength, flexibility, build their immune system, clear their mind, and much more. In fact, yoga is considered a type of holistic approach – meaning they are non-invasive and focus on the restoration of a person’s mind, body, and spirit. If you haven’t tried it already, there are diverse types of yoga to choose from, each with their own levels of intensity.

Harvard Health emphasizes that yoga can serve as a form of natural anxiety relief; the positions incorporated in yoga tend to de-escalate physiological arousal often associated with stress and anxiety, such as lowering high blood pressure, reducing one’s heart rate, making it easier to breathe, and more. As explained in a 2016 piece of literature published in the Rhode Island Medical Journal, yoga may help regulate a person’s autonomic nervous system (which is often in overdrive, especially when someone has a lot of anxiety and/or stress). In addition, yoga has scientifically been shown to modify the production of the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for conserving energy and calming the gastrointestinal system) and GABA systems (responsible for excitability in neurons – also what triggers all of those physiological responses in anxiety). Needless to say, yoga can help train your body to relax, even if you’re body has become used to that awful, stressful, tense feeling.

Dr. Chris Streeter, author and associate professor of psychiatry from the Boston University School of Medicine stated on Time Magazine that yoga has much fewer side effects than many mood-altering medications – making yoga a great fit for those with depression. The postures and deep-breathing techniques used in yoga target the autonomic nervous system specifically, which can aid in the brain’s functioning. If you haven’t already, speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center about the beautiful practice of yoga and how you can incorporate this into your treatment regime.

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