Yoga combines physical poses, breath control and meditation practices of varying intensity, duration and emphasis to trigger changes in a persons physical and mental body. Over the last few years there has been increasing research into the effects of mediation and yoga on depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.
Depression and anxiety are one of the most common mental health conditions treated across the world today according to the World Health Organisation, approximately 5% of the adult population or around 280 million people have depression (WHO Data Sheet). Treatments vary from psychotherapy, pharmacology and alternative treatments. In recent years there has been a push to understand if treatments such a yoga is the same, better or not effective at all against this massive problem.
Numerous studies have that shown that meditation and a program of yoga covering at least one 60 minute session per week can result in reductions of symptoms in patients with mild to moderate depression and anxiety (Saeed et, al. 2010). Additionally, studies also supported the value of yoga in as a powerful adjunct treatment in more serious and treatment resistant depression. Additionally, there is evidence that yoga can help with state based issues such anxiety induced from cancer and illness.
When the bran experiences depression, chronic stress or anxiety the amygdala’s fight/flight response can over ride your normal relaxation responses. This can make you less effective at regulating your emotions. Yoga, whether it is doing asana poses, pranyama breathing or dharana mediation, yoga helps the cognitive brain rewrite the messages and improve the ability to regulate emotional moods when under stress.
In recent research on the effects of meditation and yoga in young people, students experienced a reduction in stress and anxiety levels after completing a six-week yoga and meditation program. The results indicated that a mediation practice can reduce stress and anxiety in college students which has a significant impact on pre stress exam period (Lemay, et al 2019).
Investing in at least one 60 minute yoga session per week will have long term benefits for your mental health.
Lemay, V, Hoolahan, J. Buchanan, A. (2019) Impact of a Yoga and Meditation Intervention on Students’ Stress and Anxiety Levels American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 83 (5) 7001; DOI: 10.5688/ajpe7001
Saeed, S. Cunningham, K. & Bloch, R, M.(2019) Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Benefits of Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation American Family Physician Volume 99, Number 10 www.aafp.org/afp
World health Organisation (WHO) 2021 Fact Sheet on Depression – https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression