Fighting Depression Through…Yoga?
March 27, 2013

Fighting Depression Through…Yoga?

What exactly is yoga? Many of us participate in a yoga class, but many others do not understand the practice. According to the Mayo Clinic Health System, yoga consists of a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises where the goal is to reach complete peacefulness in mind and body. Specifically, “A typical yoga class might begin with 10 minutes of meditation and breathing. The instructor might then move you through a series of poses. Classes usually end with another meditation and relaxation period. Poses can range from the seemingly easy to the more difficult poses that take years of practice to master.”

About a year ago, redOrbit reported on how yoga can reduce stress as well as some medical and psychological conditions. In this, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine, Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the New York Medical College “believe that yoga, in conjunction with standard medical practices, can provide aid and relief for many medical and psychological conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and even cardiac disease.”

Recently, CNN delved deeper into the benefits of yoga, specifically dealing with depression. In the article, “Using Downward Dogs to Treat Depression,” CNN explained that Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center, and two other authors studied deeper into yoga’s use in treating depression. To do this, “they sifted through more than 100 studies on the effects of yoga on a variety of major psychiatric disorders, including depression, schizophrenia and ADHD.”

They found 16 of the highest-quality studies, and after combing through them closely, they found tangible evidence that yoga provided benefits for disorders ranging from sleep complaints and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to schizophrenia and depression. The latter was the focus of their findings.

Many scientists and doctors have seen evidence that practicing yoga may act like antidepressants and psychotherapy in the human body by influencing brain chemicals, such as boosting serotonin levels, as well lowering inflammation, reducing oxidative stress, and exerting a positive influence on other key elements. In August of 2012, redOrbit showed that the slow breathing and long stretches of yoga helps pregnant women have less depressive experiences. More importantly, yoga helps the mothers-to-be increase feelings of maternal bonding. If yoga can help pregnant women, why not help others?

CNN identified that one of the reasons yoga should be studied on a larger scale, and more closely as a means to help depression, is because many Americans (about 30 to 50 million to be closer to exact) currently take psychiatric drugs like Paxil, which is both expensive and also does not work for everyone. If yoga is a less expensive option, perhaps many individuals can find relief from their depression.

Furthermore, for people like me who are not comfortable taking a host of medications, the possibilities of yoga helping with medical and psychological conditions is definitely heartening. Though I am not opposed to prescription drugs, I only want to take them when they are absolutely the only and best option available. I do not want a pharmacopoeia just because; I want what is best for my condition. Frankly, if I can find an alternative (whether vitamins, minerals, herbs, or yoga), then I will definitely be willing to try it. I know I am not alone in these thoughts.

Depression is a very serious disease. None of us should ignore a possible pathway to overcoming it, especially one like yoga.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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