Physical, mental, and emotional disorders are effectively treated by the practice of yoga. Increasingly, interdisciplinary scientific research attests to this. The Vedic sages and modern scientists agree that by bending, inverting, twisting, and stretching we can undo the stranglehold of depression. By naturally inducing the release of mood brighteners and brain-stabilizing bio-chemicals in the physiology, yoga postures relieve the many symptoms associated with a depressed state: anxiety, lethargy, and sleep problems.
Wherein lies the incredible power of yoga? How do yoga poses actually heal?
Healing happens in a few different ways.
1. Yoga postures allow us to place our awareness on the body.
This attention is like water to a plant. It provides nourishment and liveliness to the physiology and refreshes as it rejuvenates. In this way, yoga exercises are a tool for experiencing a more settled state of mind.
2. Yoga fills us with revitalizing life energy.
Within the solid mass of flesh and bones we call our body is a network of channels that transports energy and natural intelligence. The life force—the energy extracted from our digestion of thoughts, emotions, and food—moves through these channels. When we remove stress we free the mind and body to go with the flow of life. A yoga practice puts a plug on the energy drain caused by an overactive mind and body in response to the stresses of life. In essence, it revitalizes us. It fills us with life energy!
3. Yoga increases strength and provides stability and flexibility.
Each yoga pose has its own structural effect on the physical body. In general, standing poses increase strength and energy, whereas sitting poses provide stability in the spine and create flexibility in the legs. Forward bends affect the branch of the nervous system that triggers a relaxation response, creating a pleasant calming influence. Back bends, on the other hand, affect the branch of the nervous system that stimulates us. They also increase spinal extension and create strength in the back muscles. Hence, a yoga session provides a full tune-up for our physical body.
4. Yoga feeds the body systems
Research coming from modern science has determined that a yoga practice has a positive effect on the respiratory, immune, endocrine, digestive, and cardiovascular systems. By helping us to maintain a healthy body, our practice of yoga sets the stage for a fuller manifestation of the spirit. Our consciousness shines best through a healthy body that is brimming with vitality.
It is certainly in our best interest to achieve a state of being in which the physical body, the senses, the mind, and the spirit are fully integrated, functioning in unison. Practicing yoga poses is central to this goal.
5. Yoga helps us to increase self-awareness.
There is no limit to the degree of self-awareness a person might attain. The mind is an ocean, and through meditation, healthy life style and yoga we are able to dive through its depths. Think of your mind as constructed in layers, with the top layer holding the busyness and static incurred in living everyday life. As you delve deeper through the layers of the mind, you will experience an increased degree of inner silence and calmness. As your mind becomes quieter, your intuition will grow. Experiencing increased inner calmness will help you to become centered, and this will carry your through challenges and obstacles. Yoga definitely does help us to experience increased inner calmness.
Check out yoga! If there is a studio near you perhaps you will attend a class but if not there is a great deal of help online and—in my book Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way we have a chapter on yoga that describes and illustrates basic poses.
Start wherever it is best for you—but do start doing yoga! It is excellent “medicine” for the body, mind and spirit.