Is Yoga the Secret to Curing Depression?

Depression and anxiety affects roughly 40 million Americans each year—it’s on trend to be the second leading cause for disability in the world by 2020. Many people battling depression and anxiety issues turn toward pharmaceutical drugs to treat and reduce symptoms. Pharmaceuticals often work, but they can also come with undesirable side effects, not to mention the costs. But what if something as simple and easy to do at home—like yoga—could help reduce, if not totally alleviate, the symptoms?

"Despite modern advances in psychopharmacology, and the development of so many integrative forms of psychotherapy, we haven't made a significant dent in this epidemic of emotional illness," clinical psychologist and yoga teacher Bo Forbes told CBSNews.

According to Forbes, the founder of Integrative Yoga Therapeutics, a system that specializes in the therapeutic application of yoga for anxiety, a number of ailments from insomnia and depression to chronic pain and anxiety, can be reduced with the help of a consistent yoga practice.

"Most people aren't aware that inside each of us, there's a mind-body communications network that contributes to the patterns of anxiety and depression. This network includes the autonomic nervous system, the enteric nervous system (also called the belly brain or gut microbiome), the immune system, pain modulation pathways, connective tissue matrix, and more," Forbes explains.

Forbes says we have the power to change patterns in our mind-body network through the exercises and meditations in yogic practices.

According to CBSNews, a “significant amount” of research has been conducted on yoga as “a therapeutic tool.” And, says CBS, “evidence supports the findings that yoga can help treat depression and anxiety.” One area under exploration by Forbes along with several neuroscientists, is the area of focus called interoception.

"You can think of interoceptive awareness, as it's also called, as mindfulness in the body. It pertains to the ability to inhabit the body and be present with bodily sensation as it fluctuates from one moment to the next," says Forbes.

According to Forbes, it’s a cycle of negative internal dialogue that’s the hallmark of depression and anxiety—often obsessing over issues in the past or theorizing about the future. But the physical changes brought about through yoga may be enough to help the body heal.

"If you change your body patterns, you can change your mind," she says.

“Forbes' classes are not like the typical hot, sweaty Westernized form of yoga that many of us have experienced,” reports CBS. “Her classes move slowly and are geared toward increasing awareness inside the body. They integrate breath with each movement,” and incorporates bodywork designed to give people an experience of ‘not depression' and 'not anxiety'.

While more research is needed on interoception (and if you’re currently taking prescriptions for depression or anxiety, do not stop taking them without consulting with your physician first), there are some things you can do right now to try enhancing the mind-body connection. "Follow the laboratory of your direct experience, and it will take you somewhere. It will teach you," Forbes says.

yoga image via elidr 

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