Yoga is one of the best disciplines to start and take advantage of a wealth of benefits. What does the research tell us? Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid or GABA is a neurotransmitter that acts to calm the brain and decrease anxiety. One of the leading causes behind anxiety disorders and mood change is a reduction of GABA levels. Studies, like the one done at Boston University (Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood liebertpub.com), suggest that yoga elevates the mood by increasing GABA levels.
Another recent study (yoga practice with stress-related anxiety and depression ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) shows us that yoga lowers the production of cortisol (stress-hormone) and increases production of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that relieve pain and stress helping you relax.
Similarly, consistent yoga practice has been shown to increase the production of Serotonin also known as the happiness hormone. (Raja yoga Meditation: An Index for Self-Satisfaction and Happiness in Life ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
Besides its well-known physiological benefits, yoga can also teach awareness, a vital skill for people struggling with anxiety and depression. By increasing awareness, a person with anxiety can equip themselves to notice their bodies signal's and respond to them. For example, shallow breathing is often a sign of anxiety, noticing breathing patterns early and responding with yoga breathing techniques can allow you to focus and calm down.
Including just fifteen minutes to an hour of yoga into your daily routine can improve mental health and overall well-being.
Before Yoga Practice - Set The Scene:
If you are unable to get yourself to a yoga class and want to start practicing at home, before you get started try and set-the scene. Choose a room or area with plenty of natural day-light. We often overlook how much natural light benefits our health and affects our moods. If you can, help light bounce around the room by using a mirror to reflect sunlight from a window. Open the curtains to let daylight into the room. Alternatively, practice yoga in a light coloured room, near a white wall or on a light coloured rug.
Smells have been shown to have a powerful effect on mood, behaviour and performance. Pleasant fragrances can boost your state of mind and give the feeling of overall well-being. Fragrances with compounds like bergamot, jasmine, sage or sandalwood have been shown to trigger sensors in the nose that can boost your mood. Choose your favourite room freshener, aromatherapy oil, candles or other fragrance for the area you will do your yoga practice.
Select an outfit to wear that is comfortable and in a colour that improves your mood. Bright or lighter shades of colour can give the feeling of optimism. Peaches, yellows or light pastel colours are associated with happy feelings.
Now grab a mat, you are ready to begin your yoga routine.
If you are feeling anxious or depressed, a common misconception is that a beneficial yoga practice would consist mostly of calming poses. However, when you are not in control of your mind and energy, being still and forcing yourself to relax can be counterproductive. Instead start your practice with dynamic energizing moves like a Sun Salutation routine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP34IA0d8LI
From there move onto backbends, which open the chest an essential element for relieving anxiety and depression. Focus on breathing and don’t over work any of the poses.
For depression, focus on the inhalation part of the moves, which draws energy into the body.
To manage Anxiety, it’s better to focus on the exhalation part of the moves, which eradicates the restless energy, promoting calm and peace of mind.