Yoga for dealing with anxiety and depression

By Awaana Health

Jun 5, 2022

Anxiety and depression are one of the most common mental health issues in todays. Believe it or not, roughly 45.7 million people in India are suffering from depression (Sept. 2021) and another 38 million people are suffering from anxiety-related disorders (2020). With such a high prevalence it is quite surprising that people don’t take these mental disorders as seriously as they should. While there are numerous biological, genetic, or environmental factors when it comes to the causes of these disorders, social factors play a major role in reaching out for the treatment of the same. In a series of data provided by the WHO, the mental health workforce in India falls far behind the required rate, meaning that for every 1,00,000 population there are less than 1 (0.75) psychiatrists [citation: Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 2019].

A lot of people are not aware of the signs and symptoms of depression or anxiety and that could be a reason for their negligence. Depression is not just about having a bad day or anxiety is not just having butterflies in the belly before an event. The symptoms could vary from one person to another and can get up to a level of severity where a person is not able to cope with their daily lives. Depression is much more than just a sad day or a moment, this sadness can last for a long time, so much so it interferes with your sleep schedule or your appetite. It can make you more irritable, and moody and make it harder for you to enjoy the things you used to love doing. Not only this, a person with major depressive disorder might start to feel worthless or lonely and might have thoughts of ending their lives. For most people, anxiety, and depression go hand-in-hand. A prolonged period of anxiety can trigger depression in some people or vice-versa. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression accompanies various types of anxieties such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety, etc. However, they can also exist independently.

Anxiety or depression might not always have visible physical symptoms but those who exhibit them might face a lot of difficulties in dealing with their everyday life. A lot of people who seek professional help are treated with a combination of psychotherapy and conventional medicine. What conventional medicine does is that it works on the principle of suppressing unpleasant emotions or symptoms and doesn’t work on reaching the core of the problem to cure that. It is not wrong to opt for these medications, but it might not always work as it does not resolve the root cause of the problem.

What causes anxiety and depression

Before dealing with anxiety and depression we must understand what causes them. Identifying the root cause of a certain disorder or disease helps us understand what might work in reducing the unpleasant symptoms, if not getting rid of them completely. Apart from genes or external stressors being held responsible for causing depression or anxiety, a fact that most people are not aware of is that poor gut health, chronic inflammation, hormonal imbalance (especially in women), auto-immune deficiencies, poor nutrition, and other underlying physical ailments can also cause depression or anxiety. When you consult a functional medicine practitioner like Awaana Health, they examine your entire body to find the exact cause of health issues like depression or anxiety. Most of the time they could be solved just with the right nutrition, diet, or other healthy lifestyle changes.

One such example of physical activity that helps to reduce stress and improve mindfulness is Yoga. Yoga as a mind and body intervention has been clinically proven to have reduced the long-term symptoms of depression and anxiety and has been proven to be equally or even more effective than antidepressants or other physical activities.

How does Yoga help in dealing with depression or anxiety?

In many studies it has been found that yoga can help ease the physical symptoms of anxiety by improving sleep quality, increasing positive energy and tranquillity in the mind and body. It is a practice of wellness that could roughly be defined as the process of uniting the mind and the body. Regular practice of a simple but powerful yogic kriya called Pranayama do wonders for people suffering from fatigue, anxiety, or depression. There are various schools of yoga for different purposes. Yoga helps in creating a balance between the mind and the body. The different physical postures or breathing techniques help in improving physical posture and flexibility in the body. It reduces body aches by relaxing the muscles of the body and increases calmness by regulating the breathing rate, heart rate, and blood flow which in turn reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels. Yoga has thus been a proven source of relaxation for people with anxiety and depression and has been an effective complementary therapy for treating them.

Yoga as a therapy of Anxiety and depression

Yoga has healing properties that have been long proven as a holistic approach to dealing with major health problems as well as mental health issues. Yoga increases mindfulness and promotes positive growth and development in the body. Different yoga postures help in dealing with various issues and improve well being by stabilizing mood. By performing the various asanas, one can feel connected to nature and can feel the connection between their mind, mood, and breath. The Inverted postures such as the Uttanasana (forward fold pose), Sirsasana (Headstand), Chakrasana (Wheel Pose), or Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog Pose) brings blood circulation to the head and relieves the Central Nervous System. Poses that need you to bend forward like Balasana (child’s pose), adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog), or uttanasana (standing forward fold) are good for the mind and the one that requires you to bend backward like Ustrasana (camel), Salamba Bhujangasana (sphinx), etc. helps to alleviate the mood.

Another technique known as the Yoga Nidra or guided meditation helps to release unwanted tensions in the body that gets accumulated in the body when a person is suffering from depression or anxiety. The process of Dhyana (meditation) allows a person to become self-aware and brings tranquility to the mind and the body. It further helps in improving the quality of sleep, and mood and helps in regulating emotions effectively. A yoga therapist helps in the application of yogic principles, asanas, and meditation in a therapeutic and systemized way in order to address specific goals.

Why Yoga?

The ancient spirit of Yoga from the Indian context is rather simple: the mind, body, and spirit are all one. It helps one to stay in touch with reality yet takes one on a spiritual journey of self-realization. Every yoga posture that we perform, every asana, and every pranayama, leads us to understand our own body and mind. It opens all the doors inside our bodies to connect us with nature. The healing properties of yoga are thus connected to how it affects us. It improves flexibility, and bodily functions and helps us get rid of all the toxins in our bodies. One can find the mention of yoga in the holy Bhagavad Gita, not as steps to perform but how it is a way of living a meaningful, holistic and fulfilling life. It emphasizes the importance of seeking spirituality within oneself and finding happiness and tranquility in a journey of self-care and self-discovery.

We, at Awaana Health, are aware of the benefits of Yoga in dealing with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression resulting from various lifestyle disorders. Yoga therapy remains an important part of all of our approach due to its remarkable effects and healing properties. Yoga, as a part of daily lifestyle, can improve ones health in many ways, and hence, our experts with years of experience and scientifically based research evidence have included it as a part of the process.

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