Yoga and meditation are ancient traditions finally making a name for themselves in the hectic western world. Whether it’s a vigorous exercise, a slow flow, or a guided meditation, they have the variability to cater to all. Any and all fitness levels, shapes, sizes, ages, cultures, and creeds are welcomed. Many styles of yoga combine asanas (physical poses) with breathing (pranayama) and meditation. The breath acts as a bridge to merge mind and body, creating a union that has the potential to heal. With the western world finally researching and discovering the positive effects of meditation and yoga on depression, more and more people are dipping their toes in the water.
Meditation and Yoga for Depression
Yoga for Mind, Body, and Soul
Reviews of a range of yoga practices suggest that it reduces severe stress responses. In fact, that is one of the many reasons it can be beneficial for those struggling with depression. This discovery that yoga reduces the exaggerated stress response puts it on par with other self-care techniques that also help ease depressive symptoms (such as exercising, socializing, and other relaxation practices). When it comes to the physical/physiological side, yoga is essentially modulating the body’s stress response systems and decreasing physiological arousal.
For example, yoga reduces your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and eases respiration. Mentally, yoga has the ability to increase serotonin production (a chemical that may be lacking in a depressed brain). Yoga is the “yoking” or colliding of mind, body, and soul. Yoga is seen as a quest for those seeking “enlightenment” or true contentment. All in all, yoga can provide the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects necessary for those seeking to reduce their symptoms of depression.
Research on the Effects of Yoga
A small study at the University of Utah looked at participant’s responses to pain. Scientists believe that those more sensitive to pain also have a poorer response to stress. Participants consisted of 12 experienced yogis’, 14 people with fibromyalgia, and 16 healthy individuals. Doctors consider fibromyalgia a stress-related condition. Simply put, they experience hypersensitivity to pain. The method used in this study was thumbnail pressure. As expected, the fibromyalgia participants had the most activity in areas of the brain associated with pain. Furthermore, the yogis had the highest tolerance and lowest brain activity. The conclusion made here was in fact that yoga may be able to regulate the stress response. This could ultimately do wonders for someone struggling with the emotionally and even physically painful side effects of depression.
The Power of Meditation
While yoga and meditation go hand in hand, it can be helpful to compartmentalize them if you’re new. So with this in mind, let’s talk meditation. Meditation can help treat depression by addressing the anxiety that many have preceding it. Achieving sustained focus is the goal of the meditation game. When negative thoughts and emotions come into play, the goal is not to judge them, but to come back to this place of focus. These thoughts and emotions can be what triggers anxiety. So eradicating the anxiety first helps the dominos to not fall.
Meditation can alter certain brain regions associated with depression, similar to transcranial magnetic stimulation. The medial prefrontal cortex can become overactive in depressed individuals. This is the “me center” where we process information about ourselves. The amygdala, or the “fear center”, is where the fight or flight response takes place. It causes the adrenals to release cortisol, the stress hormone. Meditation can help break this connection. Less, or no anxiety can also mean less or no depression. On a final note, studies show that gray matter increases in the hippocampi of those who meditated for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks. Studies have shown that we are actually able to physically alter our brains by training them in this way.
Yoga and Meditation
Many yogis consider yoga a “preparation” for meditation. Yogis believe that strengthening and adjusting the body into proper alignment will prepare you for successful meditation practice. However, just like any other activity, meditation and yoga for depression can take some time to see growth and notice the positive and profound effects of both. However, if you stay consistent, yoga and meditation can work in mysterious and miraculous ways. They may end up being the missing puzzle piece in the road to recovery.
Additional Reading: International Day of Yoga June 21
TMS Institute of Great Plains Mental Health
Paula Whittle, PMHNP, and Dr. James Sorrell believe that mental health should be considered as a primary driver for one’s overall wellbeing, both physically and mentally. At TMS Institute of GPMH, we want to make sure your connection to the world you live in is addressed – to change the order to … SPIRIT, MIND, and BODY. As a result, we believe when people are treated in this order they feel better, more at peace, and much stronger to face life’s challenges. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS therapy), the most advanced form of depression treatment, offers us the ability to enhance our patient outcomes following our philosophy of a holistic approach to treating mental health conditions.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.