Angry? Depressed? Stressed? Anxious?
Yoga, is a practice of various disciplines to help control our minds restlessness.
Today, there have been many studies on the mental benefits of practicing Yoga. These studies show that Yoga can help bring a whole lot of light to our hearts and lives. The meditation, breathing and exercise aspects of Yoga can help to decrease stress and improve quality of life.
Regular Yoga practice has proven to improve mood and anxiety as it increases GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) levels in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter which serves the brain by firing neurones and helps maintain the balance of your body and mind in times of stress. Lower levels can tense your muscles, speed up your heart rate, and generally effect your overall ability to function. Higher levels can promote balance and wellbeing, reduce stress, depression and anxiety and improve sleep.
One German program studied 24 'emotionally distressed' women. Though not formally diagnosed with depression, all women had experienced stress for at least half of the previous 90 days. The women were split into two groups. The control group went about their normal daily routine and the Yoga group were asked to take two 90 minutes classes per week for three months, as well as maintaining their normal daily activities.
At the end of three months, women in the Yoga group reported improvements in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and wellbeing. Headaches, back pain and insomnia were also resolved much more in the Yoga group than in the control group.
Yoga helps to regulate or 'tame' our stress response system. When this happens, all of those annoying physiological responses we experience during stress or pain, such as our heart thumping, heavy breathing, tightness in the chest and sweaty palms are decreased. We feel like we have more control and can cope a little easier.
One Pranayama (breathing) study on depression examined 60 alcoholic men for three weeks. In the first week, each of them went through a standard detoxification program and then for the rest of the study, some (randomly chosen) were asked to practice Pranayama six days a week for the next two weeks. After the three weeks, levels of depression dropped by 75% in the Pranayama group compared to the 60% in the standard group. Also, levels of two stress hormones, cortisol and corticotropin, dropped in the Pranayama group, but not in the standard group.
Most of the Yoga practiced today in the west is Hatha Yoga, which includes Yoga poses (Asana), Yoga breathing techniques (Pranayama) and meditation and relaxation (Dhyana and Savasana). Each of these disciplines (or practices) help us to slow down, focus on one thing at a time and quieten the minds restlessness.
Stillness of the mind. Like waves in the ocean becoming more and more calm. Don't we all deserve this?!
You know that Yogi? We all know him ... or her! That yogi dressed in white sitting on the floor (usually on the beach) in lotus pose looking extremely serene and calm. The one on the cover of every Yoga magazine. The one in the brochure for the Summer Yoga Health Retreat. Well, what if that image isn't just a silly representation of the stereo-typical hippy Yogi who doesn't exist? What if this 'utopian' state is actually easier to attain than we think, naturally attained, no drugs required?
Let's put it to the test.
If you're stressed out. Try some Yoga.
Believe it, be open to it and allow the light to shine.
* pranayama study - Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing - Journal of Alternative and Complimentary medicine, New York, 2005. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16131297
* German program - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16319785
The Yoga Social Team