Benefits of Yoga in Preventing SAD – Stress, Anxiety & Depression
IntroductionYoga is becoming increasingly popular across the globe because of the benefits it offers for the mind and the body. For the people who wish to see some development in their personalities and want to de-stress and reduce day-to-day tension and anxiety, a regular yoga practice can be an extremely helpful tool. Yoga is not just the physical postures but it involves practices of deep breathing, meditation and relaxation. There are countless benefits of a regular yoga programme and we are going to focus on the stress – anxiety – depression relieving ones.
Stress, Anxiety & Depression – How Are They Related?The symptoms of stress can be very difficult to recognize. Stress is correlated with tension and anxiety. Stress, tension and anxiety become the causes of depression. The initial symptoms and changes in behavior should not be ignored, because if the signs and symptoms are ignored, these conditions can deteriorate one’s mental health. Depression can make the person suicidal. It can also worsen other unrelated physical conditions affecting the person, especially hormonal and metabolic disorders like PCOD, diabetes, thyroid, etc.
Benefits of Yoga in SAD
Yoga is especially beneficial for the management as well as prevention of diseases that are interrelated and affect many systems and processes of the body.
- Yoga practice relaxes the muscles of the whole body and also stops the thought process, hence resulting in physical as well as mental relaxation. The asanas or postures relieve pain and stiffness in any parts of the body, and regular practice increases your flexibility. Certain asanas can also help remove blockages from the blood vessels and nerves.
- Yoga Asanas help regulate hormones, especially those that improve the mood, and make pain less severe. Such hormones are called endorphins and they are known for their analgesic effect. Thus a yoga session can instantly lift one’s mood and make them feel good. This has a great role to play in how one responds to stressful situations and events that make them anxious.
- Yoga teaches you to live in the moment and it deepens your awareness and balances all imbalances in the brain (and the mind) and also improves your understanding of things.
- Higher practices of yoga make you realize and understand that attachments can be painful and then you are more willing to let them go. This is probably the best benefit of yoga.
- Yoga promotes the feelings of empathy, care, contentment, joy, happiness and satisfaction. With regular practice of yoga you start loving everyone and are able to manage your thought processes and deal better with the things that make you depressed.
- The cortisol hormone, or the stress hormone, which is released by the body in response to stressful events, is reduced by the regular practice of yoga.
- Yoga can benefit the nervous system especially the parasympathetic nerves so that they are relaxed and the person is distressed naturally.
- Yoga improves the quality of sleep in people as soon as they start practicing it. It should be noted that a disturbed sleep is the reason for many aggravated mental disorders. Therefore yoga can effectively prevent the aggravation or worsening of mental conditions and their symptoms.
- After some considerable regular practice, you are able to observe your thought processes and which thoughts appear in response to which ones.
- Yoga organizes the mind and adept yogis are able to control the flow of their thoughts. Such people can never even be stressed, forget being depressed.
- Yoga is a set of practices that promote holistic growth of the mind, body and the soul. The benefits of yoga are countless and no list can mention them all.
Recommended Yoga Practices
1. Trataka Kriya
This practice is an extremely beneficial one for relaxing the brain, for improving concentration and strengthening the nervous system. When the person practicing Trataka Kriya is dedicated and serious, it prepares them for meditation. During the initial few sessions of practice, it is highly recommended that Trataka be done with the guidance of an expert. Trataka Kriya done properly is a relaxing practice for the subconscious and the unconscious mind. If the person experiences any incidents or visualizations, pleasant or unpleasant after beginning the practice, they should report all experiences to their guru.
- Light a candle.
- Place it on a surface so that when you sit with the back straight, it is at eye level.
- Sit such that the flame of the candle is equidistant and in the centre of both the eyes.
- Gaze at the tip of the flame without blinking.
- Tears will appear in the eyes.
- Close your eyes.
- Watch the image of the flame with closed eyes.
- Again open the eyes and gaze at the flame.
- Practice twice or thrice.
- After the final round, rub both palms vigorously and place them on the eyes.
- Open your eyes or go to sleep or meditate.
2. Anuloma Viloma Pranayama
Qlternate Nostril Breathing : It is an extremely popular, easy yet effective pranayama. It is an excellent practice to calm the mind as well as the brain and relieve it of all stressful thoughts. It should preferably be performed outdoors; however, there is no restriction of doing it on an empty stomach.
- Sit with your legs crossed.
- Close your eyes gently.
- The back should be straight and relaxed.
- The wrists should rest on the knees in the default position.
- Put the index finger and the ring finger of the right hand on the forehead on top of the nose.
- Use the thumb to close the right nostril.
- Inhale with the left nostril.
- Close the left nostril with the ring finger.
- Exhale with the right nostril.
- Inhale with the right nostril and close it with the thumb.
- Exhale with the left nostril.
- Practice ten respirations in this way.
- This is one round. Practice three rounds.
3. Bhramari Pranayama
The Humming Bee Practice : This pranayama is an excellent practice for the people who tend to overthink and get absorbed in stressful thoughts. Besides calming the mind it improves the overall functioning of the brain, hence improving all symptoms of stress, anxiety as well as depression.
- Sit with your legs crossed.
- The spine and the back should be straight and relaxed.
- Close your eyes gently.
- Gently plug both the ears with the thumbs of both hands.
- Put the fingers on each eye.
- Inhale deeply, and with exhalation, make a deep humming sound like a bee.
- Practice thrice.
The Corpse Pose : This pose is extremely popular amongst the practitioners of yoga around the world. It is especially recommended after any asana and pranayama practice. This pose is used to multiply the benefits of all practices. It is a relaxation exercise. It can be performed on a mat or on the bed. It can also be done as a part of any guided meditation.
- Lie on the back with a relaxed body.
- Arms should rest on both sides in a neutral position.
- Maintain the natural curve of the back.
- The spine should be relaxed at all times.
- Breathe deeply.
- Keep observing the body’s processes.
- Get up after some time or go to sleep.
Shavasana can be followed by meditation which should be performed under physician supervision of a therapist, especially when it is being done as a stress-relieving practice. It is so because the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression remind the practitioner of any unpleasant events. Depending on the individual condition of any person meditation can also be contra-indicated for them.