International Yoga Day 2017: Depressed, stressed, anxious? Yoga can help

Fifty-six million Indians suffer from depression. Thirty-eight million suffer from anxiety disorders. That’s what a recent World Health Organisation report says.

Now, 50-year-old Savita Dutta didn’t think that the above numbers included her. After she lost her husband in March 2016, her blood pressure was up, she was barely sleeping, had stopped going for walks and was generally feeling low. When friends suggested that she get tested and meet a psychiatrist, she did. The tests said she was okay. She continued meeting doctors, but till December, her health showed little improvement. Finally, she concluded that if the problem wasn’t with the body, it was probably with the mind. What if she adopted pranayam as a daily practice? Just 10 minutes of Anulom Vilom every day and she began to feel different.

Today, her blood pressure and claustrophobia are both under control, she sleeps better and feels much more productive. She says she owes it all to yoga and pranayam. “I breathe in love, and breathe out peace,” she says. It seems to have made all the difference. The days that she skips her pranayam, she feels a little low on oxygen: “It could be psychological, I don’t know. But it’s brought me back on my feet.”

Stress, anxiety, mild depression, Spondylitis, headache and back ache — if you're suffering from any of these conditions, yoga may offer some respite.

Yoga's benefits aren't restricted to the physical body alone. Photo courtesy Ana Flavia/freeimages

Yoga's benefits aren't restricted to the physical body alone. Photo courtesy Ana Flavia/freeimages

Stress is now so normal, we barely consider it a problem anymore. But anything that causes high blood pressure, heart disease obesity and diabetes does sound pretty dangerous. Here’s how yoga can help you deal with it:

Yoga for stress: Anjali Mudra, Sukhasana, Marjaryasana, Bitilasana and Uttana Shishosana

The science behind it: When you get stressed out, your SNS (sympathetic nervous system) produces a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB). NF-kB in turn produces cytokines that cause cellular inflammation. Now, this is helpful in dealing with stressful situations, but if there’s too much cellular inflammation it can lead to higher risk of cancer, faster ageing and even depression. Yoga reduces the production of NF-kB and cytokines, thus, reversing the pro-inflammatory gene expression pattern.

Anxiety is probably another way to say “I have a job” these days. Don’t worry, yoga can help.

Yoga for anxiety: Paschimottanasana, Janu Sirsasana, Salamba Sirsasana, Savasana

The science behind it: Yoga reduces the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, eases respiration and increases heart rate variability. All this helps the body cope when it's in an anxious state.

Mild depression is a combination of tearfulness, irritability, fatigue, negative thinking, tiredness and experiencing more body aches than usual .

Yoga for depression: Urdhva Hastasana in Tadasana, Adho Mukha Vrikshasana, Adho Mukha Shvanasana, Viparita Dandasana, Sarvangasana, Setubandha Sarvangasana

The science behind it: Allopathy targets monoamine systems of the body such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine while yoga targets the parasympathetic and gamma aminobutyric acid system. Mindful movement and conscious awareness have a beneficial impact on the central nervous system. Also, with yoga there are no side-effects. Just be careful with the asanas and do them under guidance from an expert.

There are plenty of studies that show how yoga has helped people overcome depression, sometimes even in cases where antidepressants were failing. (Here are some from the Boston University School of Medicine.)

Spondylitis is a pain in the neck , literally and metaphorically.

Yoga for spondylitis:Surya Namaskar , Matsyasana, Bhujangasana, Makarasana and Bal-Shayanasana

The science behind it: The problem arises because of a stiff neck and trapezius muscle. Yoga’s back bends help in making the trapezius, cervical and shoulder muscles flexible. Spaces between the vertebrae in the spine are enlarged by pulling the muscles downwards. Yoga exercises also strengthen the cervical muscles and shoulder area in addition to lengthening the cervical column and  increasing the spine’s weight-bearing capacity.The dorsal spine  is also strengthened through back bends and made more flexible through asanas that twist the body.

Headaches — the causes today are a dime a dozen. But yoga can help deal with these.

Yoga for headaches: Viparita Karani , Adho Mukho  and Svanasana Uttanasana

The science behind it: Yoga helps the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) slow your heart rate and blood pressure. A 2014 study found that people who practised yoga had less frequent headaches. These participants also had a different PNS activity pattern.


Published Date: Jun 21, 2017 07:45 am | Updated Date: Jun 21, 2017 07:45 am