If you're struggling with depression, anxiety, or the pain of chronic stress, therapy and medication can turn your life around. Many of my clients are reluctant to take medication, or report that popular antidepressants and other drugs produce unwanted side effects. Yoga can be highly effective at treating depression and anxiety, and it may even help reduce some of the unpleasant symptoms that lead to stress, malaise, and a general feeling of unease.
Yoga Improves Coping Skills
Our hectic lives can leave us in a permanent state of stress, undermining both physical and mental health in the process. Research consistently shows that yoga can reverse this cycle of stress and depression by changing the way your body reacts to stress. Yoga practitioners have lower blood pressure, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and a higher tolerance of stress.
Yoga Cultivates Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the ability to slow down your thoughts, be in the present moment, and avoid spinning fears of catastrophe and suffering. Mindfulness can improve your physical and mental health, in addition to boosting your ability to cope with stress.
Yoga Offers Pain Relief
My clients often come to me complaining of chronic pain. Many mistakenly believe that exercise will make this pain worse. The truth is that much chronic pain results from inadequate exercise and a sedentary lifestyle. Over time, your muscles can tense up, leading to headaches, neck pain, and general exhaustion. Yoga reverses this process by improving muscle health. Even when yoga doesn't completely eliminate pain, though, it offers powerful help to hurting people. One recent study found that people who practiced yoga had a higher pain tolerance, suggesting that yoga can help with the mental health effects of ailments ranging from chronic pain to cancer.
Yoga Can Help Trauma Survivors
Trauma doesn't just change your mind. It also changes your body. Trauma survivors have higher levels of blood cortisol, experience changes in their immune systems, and struggle with chronic sleep issues. A number of groundbreaking studies suggest that yoga can help trauma survivors recover, and may even do so more effectively than therapy alone.
When you're struggling with anxiety and stress, exercise may be the last thing you want to do. But give it a week or two, and I bet you'll find a reason to stick with yoga.