Ease depression with yoga: Kelley Colihan explores the mind/body connection of posing.

Author:Colihan, Kelley
Position:Breathe in

Today, it's likely that you know someone who is depressed or even that you're depressed yourself. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now finds that more than one in 20 Americans age 12 and older are depressed.

While medications and therapy can be effective paths to travel in the treatment of depression, it's increasingly being seen that daily yoga practice may help ease symptoms as well.

According to Amy Weintraub, author of Yoga for Depression and founder of the LffeForce Yoga Healing Institute, "Yoga provides a safe and effective treatment, not only for depression and anxiety, but also for the effects of trauma." Plus, there are no side effects. Amy recently released her own study on the benefits of yoga, specifically a blend of postures, meditation, visualizations, breathing and vocalizations (or the use of sounds, such as mantra and toning, to help slow down the breath and calm the mind) that she calls LffeForce Yoga.

In the study, participants were asked to rate their mood and level of depression before starting a five-day course in LifeForce Yoga. Fifty-four participants who completed the course and continued to practice at home showed a significant lifting of their mood.

But, it's not just Amy who's noticing yoga's positive effects. Other leaders in the field, like Timothy McCall, M.D., also suggest that yoga can be used to complement talk therapy and medications. It's thought that practicing yoga lowers levels of the major stress hormone cortisol and boosts levels of the brain's main neurotransmitter responsible for communication between the cells and neurons known as GABA. Low levels of GABA are associated with both depression and anxiety.

Dr. McCall, Yoga Journal's medical editor and author of Yoga as Medicine, says there have been "hundreds" of studies involving yoga, but that they usually aren't well funded. But, regardless of studies and findings, if people who suffer from depression feel better after a yoga session, why not take to the mat, Dr. McCall asks.

Amy recommends practicing your preferred method of yoga for a minimum of 20 minutes a day to help balance your mood. She also adds that learning mantras (chanting) for various postures can help deepen the breath and further impact your mood. "Universal tones and sounds vibrate the fluid body (we are at least 80 percent fluid) and help people who may have difficulties remembering to use deep diaphragmic breathing."

Any type of yoga practiced with...

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