I have been practising Yoga for close to 5 years now. Prior to this time, my life had been a day-to-day existence filled with symptoms of depression and low self-esteem. Aggravated by marring acne and burdensome asthma symptoms, not feeling depressed was usually a rare occurrence. A rare occurrence that is; until I discovered Yoga and how it could help with depression treatment.
It is, not a surprise that I was not alone during this time as research has shown that 18% of the UK’s population (10.8 million people) suffer from some sort of anxiety or depression (ONS, 2018). However, what should be the main cause of concern are the many side effects common to anti-depression drugs. Effective as they may be for a while, itís been noted that these depression drugs have several side effects which may include nausea, fatigue, insomnia and some sexual dysfunctions.
Thankfully, as with nearly any human ailment, at least in it’s not fatal stages, drug-free healing is not limited to curing any discomfort-including depression and this without these side-effects. One standout alternative for depression treatment my friends will be the incomparable Yoga.
How is this so? Well, first of all, with Yoga and its gentle movements and poses,
Alpha waves (relaxation) and Theta waves (unconscious memory, dreams and emotions) tend to increase significantly after its execution. This finding is based on a Scandinavian study conducted by Eric Hoffman, Ph.D., that measured brain waves before and after a two-hour Yoga class.
As a result, you tend to have more contact with your own subconscious and emotions. Moreover, after its use, alpha waves increases in the right temporal region of the brain as other studies have shown that people with depression tend to have more alpha activity in the left frontal-temporal region, while optimistic, extroverted people have more alpha activity on the right.
Moreover, with the execution of Yoga, a noted reduction in the hormone known as cortisol and increase in the hormone prolactin occursówhich is believed by many professionals to be the key in producing the anti-depressant effect of electroshock therapy
If this all sounds a bit advanced, perhaps a simpler illustration of how Yoga works effectively for depression treatment may be that it exercises the motor centres of the brain, making the blood flow away from the emotional activity centre; consequently one becomes more receptive to positive thoughts.
Although this can be accomplished by the use of several Yoga poses, I will narrow the wide array of choices down to three simple yet very effective ones namely the Sun Salutations, Shoulder Stand and Relaxation poses.
Depression Treatment: Choice of Yoga poses for depression help
1. The Sun Salutations:
The sun exercises stimulate and balances all systems of the body including the endocrine and nervous systems that have marked effects on our emotions, furthermore they induce deep breathing, which has been known over the ages to help alleviate many a stressful situation. Performed in rounds of three, they actually are a combination of very simple movements executed in a flowing motion. Although they are usually warm up to other Yoga poses, they can stand on their own as a Yoga session so you may not have to spend too much time to reap Yoga’s benefits as an alternative treatment for depression.
2. The Shoulder- Stand:
In spite of what its name may suggest, no worries, this pose is indeed very easy to execute and is the one pose that both old and new Yoga Instructors and writers view as a near panacea for most human ailments including depression. It is essentially a very easy inversion pose that I see most kids practising unknowingly most of us have at some point, so again, it is really easy. Being that when you’re inverted, everything is turned upside down, throwing a new light on old behavioural patterns. Working together with its counter poses, you will see for yourself what this pose can do for depression treatment.
3. The Relaxation Pose:
The daddy of them all! As the name suggests it involves lying motionless on one’s back with emphasis on deep, even breathing and meditation. It is usually performed for several minutes to alleviate stress and mental tension and positive affirmations such as helpful verses from religious books could be mentally repeated during its execution.
Being a Christian myself, one of my favourite verses while executing this pose will be a personalised derivative of Rom 12: 2 – I am being transformed by the renewing of my thoughts.
Depression treatment: Closing thoughts on other factors.
No one is saying that Yoga poses alone will be the end all be all of your depression. No. Poses alone do not constitute Yoga. Breathing exercises (known as pranayama), Meditation, (which could be rooted in your religious or spiritual beliefs) and a proper diet-all being important limbs of Yoga, should be used in your use of Yoga for depression treatment.
These limbs will be subjects of other articles to save space; however, for a depression treatment alternative without unwanted and oft times harmful side effects, dare I say drug-free healing using simple Yoga principles and natural methods might be your best bet, it did work for me.
So the next time depression sends you to the doctor, you may do well to ask for a new prescription for depression treatment-Yoga. I believe it won’t hurt and possibly could help you immensely.
Yoga is a 3,000-year-old, Hindu discipline of mind and body that became known in Western society with the hippie generation of the sixties and early seventies. Its image as a mystic practice is disappearing as fast as the stressful aspects of the eighties are appearing.
As an effective method of stress management, yoga is spreading into the business world, the helping professions, nursing and old age homes, and is used in the treatment of alcoholics, hyperactive children and youngsters with learning disabilities. Yoga centres are getting stiff competition from adult education classes of community colleges, boards of education and parks and recreation departments.
The meaning of yoga is a union of the body, mind and spirit with the truth. There are many kinds of yoga to study, and there can be endless years of practice for the willing student.
Hatha Yoga is among the most popular forms in the west. It emphasises the practice of postures, which stretch and strengthen the body, help develop a sense of balance and flexibility, as well as body awareness and mental concentration. All forms of yoga incorporate the practice of proper breathing techniques for relaxation, to rest the mind from its constant chatter, to experience an internal calm, and to energise and purify the body.
As stress levels in society reach new heights, Raja Yoga, the yoga of meditation, is growing in popularity in Western society, while others, such as Kriya Yoga, the yoga of cleansing, and Mantra Yoga, the yoga of chanting, not surprisingly, have little appeal for newcomers.
Stretching and toning, though beneficial, aren’t the primary reasons people turn to yoga. Newcomers are hoping that yoga will provide them with a means for handling stress and diffusing tension. The difference between exercise and yoga is that yoga has a meditative quality.
A lot of people are exercising for the psychological benefits and trying many of the Eastern activities, like yoga and tai chi. Yoga seems to have a calming effect on people.
And the techniques work on children as well as adults. When your children are quarrelling, ask them to stop what they’re doing, raise their arms over their heads, lean forward and breathe deeply to help diffuse their anger. It definitely helps them to calm down..
Yoga is a great disposition enhancer and it does it naturally. Any kind of exercise releases hormones that help ease the stress that often leads to the blues or outright depression. Activity keeps your mind far from negative thoughts and allows you to gain insight into dilemmas in your life. People who are depressed or down often lack the stimulus to exercise. It doesn’t take nearly as much effort to do a Yoga routine as it does to work out to a video or drive to the gym. A word of warning; if you experience more than just the occasional bout depression and feel down for more than two weeks at a time, you should seek professional help. They may feel that you need treatment or therapy, and proper exercise.
Very often people who are depressed frequently lack the concentration to stop and try to disconnect themselves from their thoughts. Yoga is meditation in movement so it is easier to move your mind away from depressing thoughts. Yoga’s focus on balance can also help you bring back your mental strength.
Yoga has a clear-cut connection between mind, body, and spirit that no other form of exercise or meditation can attain on its own. Negative thoughts can keep us from experiencing our vital inner nature. Doubt, hopelessness, despair, apathy and either sleeping too much or not enough are all signs of depression. Yoga is designed to bring you closer to your inner self; it then is only natural that it can help with some of the symptoms of depression.
Certain postures can influence your mood and allow depression to end but one special Asana can’t cure depression. The Asanas assist in increasing your lung capacity allowing more oxygen to reach all the affected parts of your body including your mood. Asana postures can help depleted energy levels and sluggishness. You should ask your Yoga instructor to help you and suggest postures that would best assist you to balance your moods.
The practice of yoga calms the nervous system and allows you to comprehend the link between your mind and emotions. They can both be used to help each other. As breathing is an important part of Yoga, it can also help you to limit anxiety, calm your thoughts, and help you concentrate on positive energy rather than negative.
Any style of Yoga can help you exile feelings of depression. It may not be physically demanding but you will feel so much better at the end of your session. Remember, if you have a severe depressive episode; seek advice from with a professional. Consult with your Doctor before starting to practice yoga to be sure there is no conflict with any treatment you may be undergoing. If you want to try a Yoga routine specifically for depression, find a teacher who can create a personal routine for you. Yoga teachers have been extensively trained for this purpose and know which positions that are the most suitable for remedial purposes.
What is chair yoga?
Chair yoga has increasingly become popular among people who can’t really practice the complicated body postures of traditional yoga. These people include those with physical disabilities and senior citizens, who have become interested in doing yoga but want it the milder way. Chair yoga is not a formal type of yoga. It is a gentler form of yoga which is done through sitting in a chair or using a chair as support whilst standing. This gives the option of doing a series of less complicated yoga poses.
Senior care centres, disabled rehabilitation centres and some hospitals do chair yoga classes. It is also frequently recommended by some health professionals as a helpful tool for physical therapy. Chair yoga also gives benefits like oxygenating the mind and body for greater productivity, and also tones muscles. However, not just anybody can teach chair yoga. One has to be a certified chair yoga instructor, as it involves the essential know-how of dealing with people who have health conditions. It also entails knowledge of the appropriate chair yoga for them.
One such training for chair yoga certification is offered by Lakshmi Voelker. Voelker specialises in certifying individuals with her chair yoga programs called The Sitting Mountain Series. This chair yoga certification program is of particular interest to some healthcare professionals. Occupational therapists, physical therapists, clinical social workers, and registered nurses, count chair Yoga as important.
Who can benefit?
It is advantageous for people working with children, seniors, the wheelchair bound, or anybody with difficulties that prevents them from getting on the floor. Lakshmi the chair yoga certification program works with senior housing facilities, MS, Departments of Education, as well as other like organisations.
Another centre who offers chair yoga certification is the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. This five day chair yoga certification program is perfect for many people. Yoga practitioners, yoga teachers, healthcare providers, those who work with people with disabilities, and seniors can all benefit. Participants of the program learn to adapt classical yoga poses to the chair and enables would-be certified chair yoga teachers to teach a one-hour chair yoga class with comprehensive information and confidence to their varied audience.
Chair yoga certification is essential for people who want to teach chair yoga. Complete knowledge and awareness provides better and more effective delivery of the benefits of chair yoga to their students. This knowledge also ensures that qualified chair yoga instructors are recognised and respected for of their expertise.
When you are new to Yoga you are probably going to be uncertain as to what to expect when you first enter a beginner Yoga Class on your first day. Most people are uncertain about what they should even be looking for in a beginner Yoga class, so this article will let you in on the four secrets to finding the right class for you.
Secret Number One: Decide on what you want to achieve before choosing a style.
The number of different reasons for taking up Yoga is usually at least as high as the number of new people in a Yoga class. Broadly people will be looking for one of three things – physical health, mental health or spiritual health. All three are important and all three are realistic goals in a Yoga class. Whatever it is you are trying to achieve through Yoga there will be a class and style that is suitable for you. You can research in a library, online or even by asking various Yogi and this will hep you find the Yoga that will get the best result for you.
It’s worth actually setting some solid goals and many newcomers are surprised at how willing a Yoga instructor is to talk over these goals with them and discuss whether they are realistic or an alternative may be better suited.
Secret Number Two: Join a class-by-class program
These are sometimes referred to as drop in classes, or pay as you go. These are a good way of getting a feel for Yoga. There will be a regular turnover of other students in the classes and the contrasting level will mean the instructor will keep the classes at a relatively mild level and give everyone a taste of many different aspects of Yoga.
The advantage of this method is of course that you are not committed to an expensive series of classes and you can get a taster for Yoga and see what types of Yoga interest you. You will also quickly learn whether the goals you set earlier are realistic for you, or even too low and need expanding upon.
Your next step will be to choose a series of classes in the areas that you found most suitable from the drop in classes. These classes will build on each other from week to week and you may find yourself behind if you miss a week.
Secret Number Three: Ensure that you are being taught by someone who knows what they are doing.
Surprisingly enough considering the relatively low intensity and the many physical benefits, Yoga has begun to regularly show up on the statistics for sports injuries. Two key causes are identified. Firstly students pushing themselves too fast too soon, and secondly instructors with inadequate training or appreciation of the individual level of their students(large classes are sometimes to blame for this).
When you are considering a new class don’t be embarrassed to ask your Yoga instructor what their qualifications and background are. Many ‘instructors have nothing more than a three day training course in ‘gym yoga’ and many people put this in the ‘enough knowledge to be dangerous category’. Traditionally a student would train for many years under a guru before they would be considered fit to pass on even the simplest of Yoga techniques to another novice.
The Yoga Alliance is a United States organisation that features a register of teaches who have completed ‘appropriate’ training. This means having completed courses that meet a certain standard. A nice rule to work by is that less than 200 hours of instruction would mean a part time Yoga education.
Secret Number Four: Be aware of hidden costs.
An unpleasant surprise that can put people right off Yoga is turning up to the first class and finding that there are expenses that they haven’t allowed for. Some studio’s require each student to have their own mat, a special strap or other props. Some classes will work through a book which you are obliged to buy and some classes will have a dress code ranging from specific colours to specific articles of clothing. Being unaware of any of these things and being refused your first class because of them can be very off-putting.
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Whenever we start something new we have a certain feeling of trepidation and uncertainty of the unknown and in most cases it is completely unfounded and we get on with things very quickly and easily. Sometimes it isn’t and a simple little thing can cause us to have an entirely negative first impression and perhaps even never want to try that activity or pastime again.
Yoga has so many health benefits, on both a physical and spiritual level, that it would be a tragedy for anyone to miss out on them because they made a silly avoidable mistake on their first day. With that in mind this article addresses the 3 most common mistakes of new Yogi, and how to make sure they don’t happen to you.
Mistake One: Not knowing what you want from Yoga.
The reality is that there are numerous different styles and forms of Yoga and each has it’s different attractions. Ask yourself what it was about Yoga in general that attracted you and then you can investigate a style that caters more specifically to that. You may like to set goals, be they physical, mental or spiritual.
If you do then it’s a good idea to discuss them with the instructor of your class before you begin. Yoga instructors are usually very approachable and happy to talk about their passion. They will be able to talk to you about your goals for the class and let you know if you are being realistic, aiming too high or too low. Make sure you goal includes a time frame so it becomes something that is measurable.
Mistake Two: Jumping in Feet First.
Having decided that they will give this Yoga thing a try many people take a running leap and jump in to a 12 month stage by stage class. These classes are usually an upfront payment arrangement and progress from one level to the next as the weeks progress. They are a fantastic way of learning Yoga and becoming very good at it, but it’s quite possibly you will choose a class that is not ideal for you.
The best way around this is to join a Yoga beginner class, also known as a drop in class. If you do these classes for a few weeks you will notice a high turnover of students as new people join and old people move on. These classes are designed to give you a very broad feel for the different types of Yoga. The level of the students in the class usually varies greatly so you can expect the instructor to keep the classes quite tame. The other key benefit of doing this is that the classes are pay as you go so there is no big financial outlay for you while you decide the type and style of yoga that best suits you. You are also not obliged to attend every class. With the longer courses you can fall behind quickly if you miss a week or two in a row. With the pay as you go classes you will find that while each class is different the level stays quite low to cater for the newer people joining in.
Mistake Three: Choosing the wrong teacher.
Traditionally a Yogi had to be an apprentice to a skilled Guru for many years before he could teach even the simplest of Yoga technique. Nowadays a 3-day course over a long weekend is considered enough by some people. There is a big difference in what you will achieve depending on the skills and abilities of the person teaching you. Yoga is starting to make a regular appearance on the sports injury list and a large reason for this is instructors who have been taught just enough to be dangerous. A qualified teacher won’t necessarily be fantastic and an unqualified teacher won’t necessarily be terrible – but the odds are certainly cast in that direction, so it’s a good idea to check your instructors background and qualifications before you begin studying with them.
1. THE COBRA Do this in easy stages. Lie down, face prone, legs tightly together and stretched back, forehead on the floor. Put your hands, palm down, just under your shoulders. Inhale and raise your head, pressing your neck again, now use your hands to push your trunk up until you are bending in a beautiful arc from your lower spine to the back of your neck. You need to go no further than this. However, if you are supple enough, you can now straighten your arms completely, bend the legs at the knees and drop your head back to touch your feet. Even if your head goes nowhere near your feet, cut it back as far as possible and hold the posture with deep breathing. Come out of the position very slowly, returning to the face prone posture. Relax with your head to one side.
2. THE BOW This is also an extreme version of the simple bow. It is surprising how many children can do it immediately. Take it, once again, in easy stages. Lie face prone on your mat. If you are very slim, have a nice thick, padded mat for this one. Inhale and bend your knees up. Stretch back with your arms and catch hold of your ankles, keeping fingers and thumbs all together on the outside. Inhale and at the same time raise your head and chest, pulling at your ankles and lifting knees and thighs off the floor. Breathe normally, trying to kick up your legs higher and lifting your head up. You are now bent like a bow, balancing the weight of your body on your abdomen. You can stop right here but if you can still stretch further, then slide your hands down your legs, lift them higher, keep the knees together and pull back as much as you can. Hold for a few regular deep breaths, then relax back to the face-prone position, head to one side.
3. THE SHOOTING BOW In Sanskrit this is known as Akarna Dhanurasana, and one leg is drawn up like a shooting bow. Sit with both legs stretched out in front and backed straight. Reach forward with both hands and clasp your feet, catching the right foot with the left hand and the left foot with the right side. Inhale, bend the left knee and pull the foot across the body, close to your chest, pointing the elbow up and twisting the body slightly to the right. The left-hand stays firm and tight, holding the right foot. Hold posture with normal breathing, release slowly, and relax. Repeat on another side. In the beginning, it is enough to hold the bent left leg with the right hand. When this is easy, stretch down and keep the left foot with the right side. Continue to pull on the left foot, lifting it higher on each exhalation.
One of the all-around yoga exercises is the 12-step salute to the sun. Do it once or twice when you get up in the morning to help relieve stiffness and invigorate the body. Multiple repetitions at night will help you to relax; insomniacs often find that six to 12 rounds help them fall asleep.
1. Stand with your feet slightly apart, palms together, thumbs against your chest.
2. Inhale deeply while slowly raising your hands over your head, and bend back as far as possible, while tightening your buttocks. Hold for three seconds.
3. Slowly exhale and lean forward, keeping your knees straight, until your fingers touch the floor outside your feet. (If you can’t reach the level, go as close as you can.) Bring your head in toward your knees.
4. Slowly inhale, bend your knees, and if your fingertips aren’t outside your feet on the floor, place them there. Slide your right foot back as far as you can go, with the right knee an inch or so off the floor, (a lunge position). Now, look up as high as possible, arching your back.
5. Before exhaling again, slide your left foot back until it is beside the right one, and with your weight supported on your palms and toes, straighten both legs so that your body forms a flat plane. Make sure your stomach is pulled in.
6. Slowly exhale, bend both knees to the floor, bend with your hips in the air, lower your chest and forehead to the level.
7. Now inhale slowly and look up, turning your head back, then raising it, followed by your upper chest, then lower chest. Your lower body – from the navel down – should be on the floor, and your elbows should be slightly bent. Hold for three to five seconds.
8. Exhale slowly and raise your hips until your feet and palms are flat on the floor, and your arms and legs are straight in an inverted V position.
9. Inhale slowly and bring your right foot forward as in post 4. The foot should be flat on the floor between your fingertips. The left leg should be almost straight behind you, with its knee slightly off the floor. Raise your head, look up, and arch your back.
10. Slowly exhale and bring your left foot forward next to your right one. Straighten your legs and stand, trying to keep your fingertips on the floor, and try to touch your head to your knees as in position 3.
11. Slowly inhale, raise your arms up and stretch back as in area 2. Don’t forget to tighten your buttocks. Hold for three seconds.
12. Slowly exhale, lowering your arms to your sides. Relax. Repeat the series.
While on the way to spot a friend of mine at the local YMCA, he asked why I didn’t just join the gym and I explained to him that I practice Yoga and occasional callisthenics at home for my exercises and really didnít feel the need for a gym membership. His response was predictable: Yoga isn’t just stretching
I smirked at the familiarity of the question and proceeded to explain to him the theme of this article. As I told him and for those who may not know otherwise: No, Yoga is way more than just stretching or getting into supposedly awkward looking poses and positions.
It is a combination of stretching, breathing exercises, meditation and perhaps the most overlooked limb, adherence to a proper diet.
The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word, means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as a “union” or a method of discipline. Its ultimate goal is the union of man with God or the universe in one breath. Furthermore, it aims to liberate the spirit as the mind and spirit are equally involved in its practice.
Yoga is indeed the oldest existing physical-culture system in the world. Besides being a systematic and scientifically proven path to attaining physical fitness, it delays ageing, rejuvenates and improves oneís appearance, maintains suppleness and increases vitality and the creative part of life.
With its core warm-up exercises known as the Sun Salutations (which are somewhat similar to the callisthenics exercise known as burpees the inversion poses, forward and backwards bending poses, balancing exercises for the arms and building focus, the average practitioner will attest to the fact that for attaining fitness, Yoga can stand its own.
Think Yoga can’t help with building strength? Think again. Heck, I challenge the most adept body-builder to hold the simple yet powerful peacock-pose for 90 seconds straight. Bet you they who crash half-way in its execution-if they make it that far.
Yoga also offers unique breathing exercises which are lovely for patients with respiratory disorders and even singers and public speakers, moreover, with its unique relaxation pose, oft times practised during, and after its execution, Yoga offers a systematic means of profoundly relaxing the entire body perhaps the way no other exercise can. (Keep in mind of course that several of the poses give a deep body massage, not unlike the ones received in salons just thought I should throw that in.)
With countless books, and DVD videos and classes being offered for all ages, levels of fitness and experience (some of them being actually free for the first couple of lessons to try Yoga out), I suggest you give it a trial and see for yourself what it can do.
One thing I promise you is this; you will walk out of your class and nod in agreement that indeed: yoga is way more than just stretching. It is exercise.
Most people have a passing knowledge of what Yoga is or think they know about what it sets out to achieve. But until you have tried Yoga, it is impossible to tell whether you have the type of personality that can truly excel under its influence. Yoga quite simply can be a life-changing experience, and the discipline and mental strength that result from it can completely change your perspective and worldview.
One method of Yoga which is currently very popular is known as Bikram Yoga. Bikram Yoga, often referred to as ‘hot yoga’ follows the Bikram Yoga Method. As with all Yoga, it has multiple goals – to build your inner strength as well as your outer physical strength. A vital component of Bikram Yoga is the flexibility and balance required to perform the exercises, and it is believed that this comes from mental toughness as much as physical practice. The roots of Bikram are in Hatha Yoga, which is a healing form of Yoga that strengthens both body and mind.
The founder of Bikram Yoga was Bikram Choudhury, a yoga practitioner and innovator. After a weightlifting accident, Bikram Choudhury was determined to recover and set about investigating the healing ability to practice certain types of exercise. The result was Bikram Yoga, which so many people found to be an effective method of healing that it’s tenants were recorded and passed on as a new form of Yoga. Those who practise Bikram Yoga purely for it’s healing benefits are plentiful, but there is also a robust, holistic component, which is a crucial reason behind using Bikram Yoga for many of those who are regular users.
They key to success with Bikram Yoga is to develop the mental strength required to discipline yourself in its use. If you can master this side of the Yoga, then the physical benefits will be forthcoming. They have been proven by scientists including a group from the Tokyo University Hospital. The medical benefits are beyond question and have been shown to improve chronic ailments as well as greatly assist in the treatment and recovery of tissue injuries.
At the 1972 International Medical Conference the findings were presented, and it was concluded that Bikram Yoga could assist in the recovery of internal tissue. The explanation given was that the positions practised by Bikram Yoga replenish cells and help in the lymphatic system flushing toxins from the body. In addition to the toxin drain, the cells are assisted by higher oxygen flows during and after exercise.
Bikram showed that to get the best benefits from the exercise a healthy and well-balanced body was significant. Where the body is weak Bikram Yoga will have less effect in the healing process, which relies on correct balance and circulation.
Bikram demonstrated 26 exercises and recommended a regime, which was to be practised every single day to best treat the body. Each posture exercise was developed based on a background of both Eastern and Western Yoga disciplines. They all focus on the movement and pressure on muscles, nerves, ligaments glands and organs. The exercises are meant to be performed together and in sequence, because they are all inter-related to each other.
Bikram Yoga is low impact and can be performed by people of all different ages. The critical component is the discipline required to perform the posture exercises every day for maximum benefit.