I don’t know how I would have survived the dreary winter we had this year without my weekly yoga practice. I block out those hours of self-care on my calendar every week to make sure I keep this important practice. Yoga is a tool that helps me feel grounded and calm and more ready to serve my clients in the best way possible.
Research that shows how valuable yoga can be in easing the symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. For this reason-combined with my own personal experience-I recommend yoga to so many of my clients as a way to have more control over their mental health issues.
We are learning new things every day about how the mind and body function as one integrated system. The realization that mental health is a natural part of overall health has opened the doors to new ways of caring for ourselves when we’re not feeling our best.
If you’re one of the millions who suffer from anxiety or depression, you know how difficult it can be to find relief from your symptoms. You may even experience both issues at the same time, making it especially difficult for you to function each day.
Since our bodies and minds work in concert, it makes sense that physical activity can be a source of healing when we’re stressed or depressed. This is where the healing power of yoga comes in.
AN ANCIENT PRACTICE THAT SUPPORTS TOTAL HEALTH
Yoga is a mind-body practice that blends physical poses and controlled breathing with meditation and relaxation techniques. It is an ancient technique that began in India more than 5,000 years ago and is growing in popularity as people everywhere look for effective ways to care for their overall health.
Studies have shown that yoga helps lower blood pressure and heart rate and empowers us to manage stress more effectively. There are many styles of yoga– ranging from gentle to fast paced – and the poses and movements can be modified to suit almost every body and every level of fitness.
Hatha yoga is the most common style of yoga in the U.S. It combines physical poses (known as asanas) with breathing excercises and a short period of deep relaxation or meditation.
BENEFITS IN EASING ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
According to Harvard Health, yoga can help with anxiety and depression in several ways. The practice activates areas of the brain that increase joy and moderate emotions that are linked to stress.
Specifically, yoga seems to reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses we may experience in everyday life, especially when we are suffering from high levels of anxiety. It moderates our stress response systems, which can be overtaxed by the worries, fears and pressures that often surround us.
Yoga’s calming benefits are especially helpful for those dealing with depression. Experts say that practicing yoga can help rebuild healthy serotonin levels, which in turn help to elevate mood. (Serotonin is a crucial brain chemical that helps moderate the way we feel day-to-day, and low serotonin levels are closely associated with mood issues.)
This helpful introduction to yoga offers even more background on the many health benefits you can gain from adding a yoga practice to your wellness routine.
STARTING YOUR YOGA PRACTICE
Here in our community, there are many great yoga studios and courses you can try. Being in a yoga class with others provides social support, too – another valuable plus in your health and wellness plan.
Yoga is generally considered safe for healthy people under the guidance of a trained instructor. You should check with your doctor first if you have a herniated disk, blood clots, glaucoma, balance problems, blood pressure issues or osteoporosis. Pregnant women can benefit from yoga but may need to avoid certain poses.
Once you find a beginning class that sounds good to you, talk with your instructor about any concerns you have. He or she can help you modify poses to match your abilities. You don’t have to do every pose to benefit – and a good instructor will encourage you to explore but not exceed your personal limits.
HELPING YOU LIVE YOUR HEALTHIEST, MOST FULFILLING LIFE
As a therapist working with people of all ages in Oak Park and surrounding communities, I am here to support your total well-being. If you are struggling with the effects of anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue, I am ready to help you. Please reach out to me to arrange a confidential session at a time that is convenient for you.