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The Psychological Benefits Of Yoga: Introducing Yoga for Depression

In order to understand depression, we shouldn’t settle for merely a mono-dimensional approach; we should strive to understand it from every conceivable angle: the spiritual, the psychological, the philosophical, as well as the scientific.

This is the first article in a series meant to aid you in achieving that multi-dimensional understanding.

What Is Depression?

Depression is actually an umbrella term for a myriad of different symptoms that people can suffer from; it’s when an imbalance of neurotransmitters occurs in the brain from either an acute occurrence that would trigger it, a genetic condition, or both, that causes the person experiencing it to feel extreme sadness, loss of interest and pleasure, or to suffer other symptoms, such as insomnia (Farrell, 2015).

When a person experiences symptoms of depression for longer than two weeks, it’s considered by medical professionals to be clinical, leading to various treatments determined on a case by case scenario.

What Is Depression?

Depression is actually an umbrella term for a myriad of different symptoms that people can suffer from; it’s when an imbalance of neurotransmitters occurs in the brain from either an acute occurrence that would trigger it, a genetic condition, or both, that causes the person experiencing it to feel extreme sadness, loss of interest and pleasure, or to suffer other symptoms, such as insomnia (Farrell, 2015).

When a person experiences symptoms of depression for longer than two weeks, it’s considered by medical professionals to be clinical, leading to various treatments determined on a case by case scenario.

Though it is common throughout the population, that doesn’t make it any less serious. Besides just feeling sad, when you’re suffering from depression, the ability to focus and remain motivated are greatly inhibited. This means that chronic depression can lead to the destruction of families, the loss of jobs and with them the quality of one’s livelihood. It is notorious as the leading cause of suicide, as well as the leading cause of disability overall (Caruso, 2016).

What Can Yoga Do For Depression?

By its very nature, there are tons of benefits of yoga that can help you manage and overcome depression for a multitude of reasons. It’s both a discipline and an art form that’s based on both physical and mental fitness achieved by exercise and meditation.
Whenever you exercise, a healthy catalytic chain of events occur within the body (especially the brain) that affect your wellbeing. Some major ways (though absolutely not all) that Yoga can affect how you feel is in:

  1. Confidence
  2. Focus
  3. Social interaction
  4. Improved relaxation and sleep

Yoga builds the body in a multitude of ways that can help you lose weight, and tone your muscles, which will ultimately give you something to smile about whenever you look in the mirror.
The process of actively practicing yoga in real time forces you to focus on what you’re doing, in order to correctly hold certain postures while pushing your body to its limits, as well as the different kinds of meditation that you can perform which have a library’s worth of researchable effects of their own. Focusing in this manner can significantly help you to relinquish negative thoughts that repeat in your mind, which is crucial to fighting depression in those who exhibit the symptoms of repetitive dark thoughts, such as suicide and bad memories.

Meanwhile, yoga is absolutely something you can do to connect with other people, which can drastically affect your social life. Unless you’re a natural introvert who recharges their psychological batteries more when they’re alone, many people suffering from depression tend to exhibit the will to withdraw from society when their symptoms are acute, which is unhealthy and even potentially dangerous.

How Yoga Improves The Brain

Practicing yoga for one hour, at least three times per week, factually increases your GABA levels. GABA is an acronym for gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is a neurotransmitter that helps you relax and to sleep (Staff, 2014).

Many people don’t know that the brain is considered to be made of a kind organic plastic, which actually takes physical shape and form (just like a muscle does) depending upon how you use it (or not). With this in mind, a person with depression usually has a smaller amygdala and hippocampus (Savitz, 2016). These are parts of the brain that are vital for processing emotions and short-term memory, respectively, but physical exercise that’s part of yoga regimens has been scientifically proven to increase the sizes of these parts of the brain over time, improving their function with increased blood flow to each region, thus alleviating symptoms of depression on a long-term scale.
Because exercise affects your body’s metabolism, and your metabolism affects your immune system, a heightened immune improves the ratio of neuroprotective metabolites versus neurotoxic ones, which absolutely affect the wellbeing of your brain.

There are also such things that are called “neuroprotective” chemicals (also known as metabolites), and “neurotoxic” chemicals. In simplification, neuroprotective chemicals help the brain, while neurotoxic chemicals hurt it. People who practice Yoga have shown increases in their ratios of neuroprotective metabolites versus neurotoxic metabolites, which directly affect the health of the entire brain and how it processes and retains information, meaning that Yoga can influence everything from your short and long-term memory, to even boosting your IQ.

Even beginners who aren’t entirely sure of what they’re doing can start to reap the benefits of yoga, with results that progressively increase over time. All of this from merely the physical facet of Yoga; the meditative element of it hasn’t even been touched yet.

Now, the information in this article may seem saturated with very technical neuroscientific jargon, but understand that this is merely the first introductory article in an entire series connected to it. In this series, we’re going to go deep into the intricate details of how certain kinds of yogic exercises release different neurotransmitters, why and how, as well as how you can empower yourself with that knowledge to optimize the results that you’re seeking when you practice at home with Kristina’s online classes.

People with depression aren’t weak, and no matter how strong you are, clinical depression isn’t going to go away simply because you will it to. Yoga is an incredibly healthy, safe, and inexpensive method of improving your brain’s health, thus uplifting your mood and cognitive performance, which is key in fighting, maintaining and overcoming depression that anyone of virtually any age can benefit from.

If you found this article interesting, if you’re looking forward to more information about all of this, be sure to sign up for Kristina Kumlin’s updates by following her on Facebook and Twitter here.

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