5 Ways Yoga Is Great For Depression & Anxiety
I have to admit I was skeptical when I first saw an advertisement for a class titled “yoga for depression & anxiety”. Yet despite my trepidations, I felt drawn to the class and found myself signing up. I didn’t know what to expect, I was uncertain that it could help, and I wondered if I was possibly wasting my money. Nerveless I opened up my mat.
I have Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety. I take medication and go to therapy. I’m not ashamed of these things, nor do I hide them. I respect each individual’s choice in regards to mental health treatment, and I know I’ve found what works for me. I take a holistic approach in regards to managing my illnesses. In addition to medication & therapy, I utilize, photography, writing, walks, meditation, support groups, books, and much more. It really should not have been too much of a stretch for me to consider yoga.
I attended all 8 weeks of sessions, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned as well as the results. Below I’d like to share with you some of what I gained.
1. Somewhere to be. – The first thing I learned was it really helps my mood to have somewhere to be. The class took place at 10am on a Saturday, and in all honesty, every time I struggled with wanting to stay in bed. Making it to the class felt like a huge accomplishment, and when I got there I found myself already feeling proud. Just showing up was part of the process.
2. With likeminded people. – I was lucky; this class was specifically designed for depression and anxiety. I knew that everyone in attendance was there for a similar reason, so there was an automatic connection. Not everyone will be so fortunate to find a yoga class specific to their individual need. Yet I do think this comrade can still exist. Each person present, regardless of their intention, is making an effort to exercise their mind and body.
3. Slowing down. – There are a large variety of yoga styles, many of which involve complicated poses and sequences. When doing yoga for anxiety you do the opposite, engaging in unhurried, calming, and purposeful movements. There are special breathing techniques that help with slowing things down. If you’ve ever left a yoga class feeling peaceful and slightly sleepy, the instructor likely was using a calming yoga style. When looking for classes that teach these types of practices search for: Yin, Hatha, and Restorative Yoga.
4. Speeding up (but not too much.) – Depression often leaves us feeling lethargic, and can cause us to retreat into the self. As you may have guessed yoga also has an answer for this. When learning about the poses for depression, we tried out things that were meant to be energizing as well as opening. Within this though was compassion that while the intention was to improve that get-up-and-go, it’s not necessary to force the mind and body into something it isn’t ready for. Some types of classes to look for are; Flow, Yang, and Iyengar Yoga.
5. Take it with you. – The great thing about yoga is that you can do it anywhere, including in yesterdays sweatpants in your own living room. There are a lot of great aspects to practicing in the community, but this is not always feasible. There are restraints of finances, time, and yes mental illness. If you are too depressed or anxious to get to classes but can manage some yoga in the bedroom, good for you! The yoga that I most took with me, and continue to use in private, is the type that can alleviate anxiety. These poses and breathing techniques are usually uncomplicated, and can easily be remembered. Being able to utilize this wherever I am has been extremely helpful!
Did my 8-week class cure my anxiety and depression? No, but I wasn’t expecting it to. What it did do though was teach me that I could add yoga to my wellness toolkit. I learned that yoga could help my mental health, and I saw immediate and long-term improvements. Taking a risk and trying out this class rewarded me. Perhaps you should also roll out your mat and see what yoga can do for you.
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