Nearly 6 years ago following my breakdown I wanted to seek out ways in which I could manage my anxiety and depression and the one word that kept repeating itself to me was Yoga, now in these strange times I find myself returning to it...
How does Yoga help?
Many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of yoga in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Yoga eases symptoms of anxiety and stress through direct benefits to both the body and mind. On a physical level, yoga helps induce a relaxation response and reduce heart rate; on a psychological level, mindfulness promotes a focus on the present moment, guiding thoughts away from anxiety or worry about future events.
When an individual is experiencing anxiety, the amygdala, or “alarm center” located in the brain, has gone into a state of hyper vigilance or high-alert. The deep breathing practices associated with yoga speak directly to the amygdala to lower the state of anxiety.. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a relaxation response.
Yoga also helps to:
Stress and anxiety often include experiences of racing thoughts, overwhelming mental “checklists” and/or anticipation and worry about future events. Through mindful cuing from your instructor, yoga can help:
Online Yoga Classes
Of course in these unprecedented times we find ourselves unable to go to a class, but there are lots of online yoga platforms that you can access from home.
The best I have found are:-
1. Yoga With Adriene
The O.G. online yoga sensation, Yoga With Adriene is the YouTube channel with a whole wealth of programs to get you started - whether you're brand new or are back to do 30 Days of Yoga for the umpteenth time. This Texan yogi will put a smile on your face and has a whole range of videos for different abilities, from learning individual postures to programs targeting specific muscles and areas, Adriene's your gal.
2. FLYLDN Instagram Lives
One of London's best yoga studios, FLYLDN may have gained fame for their immersive screens and gorgeous settings, but their teachers are also top-notch, and now offering an entirely free daily program of yoga on Instagram lives. From their signature dynamic FLOW45 vinyasa to candle-lit CHILL classes with their head of yoga Fi, it's that extra push you need to get out of bed in the morning. Plus, they're also now expanding to YouTube.
3. Helen Maria Faliveno
Hailing from London (you can find her at @hmfyoga on Instagram) Helen offers up anything from 30 minute stretches to savasana self-scans. You can even see how she's spending her day working from home as a yoga teacher this month here. In addition to the videos already on her YouTube channel, Helen is leading a new class a day for free via her Instagram (these will be uploaded to her YouTube channel afterwards).
4. Yoga Dose - Tim
Tim's Vinyasa Flow class is intense, prepare to feel the burn in your arms!
5. Fightmaster Yoga
For feel-good classes led by Lesley Fightmaster and lots of hour long options, this is a great channel to tune into if you want to work hard.
My Personal Yoga Journey...
For me personally it has been a revelation and I certainly notice the difference when I am not practicing regularly. I aim to visit my mat at least three times a week at home, but going to class really makes the difference for me. The immense feeling of calm that is achieved as you are guided through the poses and shavasana is just something else.
However finding a class, and more importantly a teacher, who suits you is a minefield. For me, an average size 14 with wobbly bits and terrible flexibility (from a life time of running and hard exercise) it was quite simply terrifying. Especially when you throw anxiety in to the mix and you spend the whole time in class looking at all the uber flexible young things in their teeny tiny leggings and crop tops. But when you do find that class, that teacher, all those things completely go away. You realise that Yoga is intensely personal, that you can achieve exactly the same feelings, strength and benefit from every single pose when you are active within it and don't push yourself beyond your limits.And more importantly stop comparing your beginning to somebody elses end....
There are some yoga poses that I can do with ease, but the simple act of just sitting cross legged is the hardest for me, swiftly followed by kneeling with my bum on my heels - both of these are a physical impossibility. And when I first started yoga 5 years ago I was incredibly conscious of it. However I have learnt that both of these things are just fine, with the help of a rolled up blanket and some blocks I can achieve the poses. I also cannot do the lotus pose. I couldn't even do it as a child, yet I can put my legs behind my head, touch my toes and my downward dog is pretty outstanding! So, please, don't let insecurities about your body, your flexibility stop you.
A good yoga teacher should offer you the first class for free and spend time with you to guide and support you. If they don't they are not the right teacher for you. A good yoga teacher will also always, always offer alternatives to poses so that every person in the class is achieving their best. Again, if they don't they are not the right teacher for you. A good yoga teacher will make you feel empowered. Again if they don't, they are not the right teacher for you.
And finally don't waste time thinking (like I used to) that everyone in the class is looking at you and judging your ability, trust me they aren't. They too are trying not to fall over or more to the point fart.
Yoga may bring long-term benefits for people with depression
"Yoga can ease depression symptoms, according to the largest study to ever investigate the link," the Mail Online reports.
The study didn't find any benefits from doing yoga at the end of the 10-week study period, but there were improvements in symptoms at a six-month follow-up review. Because of the mixed results, these findings need to be interpreted with caution.
Read Article HERE
Yoga and Positive Psychology
The link between yoga and positive psychology is a strong one; although yoga started with a slightly different focus, it is now commonly practiced in the West as an attempt to enhance well-being (Ivtzan & Papantoniou, 2014). Of course, well-being is a core topic in positive psychology, which explains the frequent use of yoga in intervention and exercises.
Read Article HERE
8 yoga poses to reduce stress & improve flexibility
Yoga has been proven to have a multitude of physical and mental health benefits. A gentle, low-impact exercise, not only does it stretch and strengthen your muscles, making you more flexible and supple, but it has been shown to effectively lower blood pressure, plus reduce stress and anxiety.
Read Article HERE
Yoga and Mental Health
Yoga not only provides a number of physical benefits as experienced in exercise, but it is also a natural anti-depressant remedy that can help boost mental health. I believe that this is achieved through the self-awareness aspect of the practice. Many of the practices found within yoga are used to help people who battle with anxiety and depression. This could explain why so many individuals turn to yoga.
Read Article HERE
If nothing else, try this...
Yoga Nidra Meditation by my Yoga Teacher Ingela Wellbrock of Ross Yoga
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST