At this time of year depression is a huge force that many people are contending with. We’ve been lucky here in Asheville to have a few days of respite from the winter (or, maybe not, if we owe that to global warming). Warmer weather certainly can shift mood. But there are many other reasons for depression besides the lack of sunlight.
My husband’s best friend finally killed herself 2 months ago. She had been suffering for most of her life with depression. It has deeply affected him of course, but more so her family including her young niece who adored her.
It’s likely that you have a similar story about a friend or family member. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 10 American adults—or approximately 21 million people?suffer from a depressive illness each year. That’s a lot of suffering. We see it everywhere – and it can lead people to self medicate with alcohol, drugs or food. A woman addicted to meth sometimes comes to my house to ask for food. I see the shame and fear in her eyes. I give her bananas or canned black beans. I don’t feel terribly helpful.

I dealt with depression when I was a young adult. Not to be cliche here, but yoga really did help me recover. I also began to realize that my reasons for being depressed were not simply about me, but about the culture I live in. Tremendous pressures on young women to look or behave a certain way have not been erased by the women’s liberation movement. In fact, perhaps there are even more pressures on women to both achieve great successes and look fabulous doing it.
On the other end of the spectrum many people are dealing with obesity resulting from a toxic, excessive American diet. People also struggle with unsatisfying jobs, deep credit card debt, lack of connection to their communities. Not to mention politics – there’s a lot to be depressed about. I don’t know all the reasons for depression, but I do know yoga can help people deal with it.
Research done in May of 2007 at Boston University showed that the neuro-transmitter GABA increased by 27% after yoga practice. Lack of this specific neuro-transmitter has been shown in both depression and anxiety. Yogis don’t need anyone to convince themselves that yoga makes you feel better – but it’s nice to know western medicine is starting to get it too.

My current class series is on Yoga for Emotional Well-Being. The turn out has been truly amazing. People want holistic help. Yoga can deliver, but it’s a practice – that means you have to do it. You have to find the will within and the support without to see the changes.

Here’s another link for how yoga can help depression.


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