Does Yoga Really Help Depression?

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Life is rich experience full of highs and lows, and depression can arise as a normal reaction to the hardships life can throw at us. At some point, all of us will suffer heartbreaks, losses and failures, with some experiencing a bout of depression after the event. However, issues will arise when the depression lingers for weeks or even months. You may feel inclined to turn towards medication or opt to speak to a therapist. Yet, as discourses in Yoga and movement therapy continue to grow, you may find you have another option.

Drugs as Medication

The theory that mental illness is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain is widely accepted by the public, media and medical professionals. This has led the way for the pharmacology industry to explode. Drugs have surpassed therapy and given patients the ability to suppress the physical nature of their problems without ever addressing the underlying emotional issue. Although drugs can be highly effective if used correctly in conjunction with other treatments, they also have a serious downside in that they deflect the attention from the real issue at hand.

If drugs as medication were as effective as we are led to believe, then anxiety and depression in our society would be declining. However, the opposite is true. Use of antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs are steadily increasing and the number of people in America who are being treated for depression has tripled over the past 20 years – and this is not just the case in the adult population. The scary truth is, drugs have become so profitable that other (non-drug) treatments are often blanketed as “alternative” and are rarely published by medical journals.

Talking Therapies

Talking therapies are aimed at bringing emotions to the surface. However, the patients physical reactions are usually permanently changed by their past. Talking about the events can just cause the depression to be replayed and revisited again and again.

does yoga help with depressionYoga, Movement and Meditation

One reason why it is so difficult to recover from depression is because you feel most alive when revisiting your painful memories. Retraining the brain to feel fully alive in the present moment is the road to self-awareness, the road to recovery and the road to life.

In order to fully recover from depression and negative experiences we have to repair our defragmented view of reality and learn to integrate our past and our present. A vital part of healing is learning that in the present, the danger has passed. Once you recognize that your current reactions started as a way to save your life, you can start to build the courage to face your inner world.

The practice of yoga, dancing and meditation is the practice of bringing yourself into the present. Through discipline, breath and stillness, you start to become aware of what your body needs and how to take care of those needs. In other words, you begin to cultivate sensory awareness. Our sensory experience is the very essence of what makes us human, it is held as much in our awareness as our physical experience, however we are essentially blind to it, making it difficult to understand the internal and emotional needs of our bodies.

Focusing on your breathing and on the sensations in your body from moment to moment entices creativity; it teaches you to approach your body with curiosity rather than with fear. Once in this curious state of mind you can explore the natural rise and falls of the sensations inside the body and let go of the nervous anticipation that usually accompanies them.Yoga, Movement and Meditation

Community and Connection

Community and connection is also an important part of the healing process. Many of those who suffer with depression find comfort in support groups, however these are usually centred around negativity and rarely provide relief from the past.

In a yoga class, a meditation group, or even a drum and dance circle, you are supported without judgement through the entire process. Across the world, in many different cultures – both old and new – the healing power of community is often expressed through music, rhythm and dance, reflecting the rhythm and flow state that we all constantly live in. In a yoga class you move and breath to the rhythm of the teachers instructions, moving in a dialogical relationship with the other yogis around you. You are both supported by and supporting others in the space through movement.

Yoga gives us a way to form fulfilling, long-lasting, genuine relationships. In a world where digital communication is starting to become the norm, meeting people on a physical sense, but also sharing movement with them, is powerful way to form a strong connection. Yoga can help us meet and bond with people who share our goals, dreams, visions and perspectives on life.

Coming into synchronicity with your own body and with those around you ignites a new relationship with your self. It will leave you feeling physically attuned through experiencing connection and joy, allowing you to be fully present in the moment and safely access your sensations and emotions.

In order for our relationship to our bodies and healing to change, first the relationship to how we treat depression has to change. We must begin to recognise the true cost of depression and the effects it has on the individual’s sense of self. With this knowledge we can learn how to bring them back into reality — through breathing, through touch, through connection and through movement.

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