Nearly one in five Americans suffers from an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Stress and stress-related diseases have skyrocketed since the industrial revolution, with stress being a daily reality for most Americans. Those with anxiety disorders are at higher risk for coronary heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Not to mention the difficulty of being deeply uncomfortable on a daily basis. Luckily, there are simple and natural ways to combat such stresses, with yoga for depression and anxiety being one of them.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered one of the most time-tested, verified and accepted form of treatment. It is recommended that anxiety-sufferers try this approach as a first line of defense. However, some people may not find improvement in therapy or may want to take control of their anxiety by initiating their own recovery-programs concurrent with therapy.
Prescription drugs are also among the most commonly used form of treatments. It is important to note that prescription drugs may show great efficacy in reducing or eliminating symptoms, but that is the extent of their benefit: symptoms. Pills do not address the root causes of the anxiety; they merely suppress its effects.
The drugs may work for some, but a whole host of side-effects also appear, and when a patient misses a dose or goes off the drug, the anxiety can return in full force. The drug hides the symptoms but does not change behavior and outlook in a permanent way. That is why many people have looked to alternative therapies like yoga to help combat their anxiety.
Yoga for Depression and Anxiety
Controlled studies have shown that yoga for depression and anxiety can be very effective, having a direct, potent and lasting effect on anxiety disorders. One such study involved a group of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. They engaged in a program featuring guided meditation, yoga asanas (stretching poses), stress reduction techniques and breathing exercises. After six weeks the group had an overall decrease of 15 points on the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), moving the group from moderate to severe anxiety down to mild through moderate. The improvement was dramatic and the control group showed no improvement.
In a 2005 German study, distressed women who participated in yoga for three months showed a 50 percent drop in depression, a 30 percent drop in anxiety and a 65 percent increase in overall wellbeing – clear research that shows yoga for depression and anxiety works.
Anxiety is a maladaptive response of the brain, meaning that it serves no practical survival function. Fear, anxiety and an excited nervous system are part of a fight-or-flight response that protects us from danger. Anxiety sufferers experience the same hyperactive nervous system, but they do so in benign situations.
Yoga has been shown to counteract this response. Studies have shown that consistent yoga practice can lead to lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, calm breathing and a relaxed thought process in lieu of an overactive cycle of worries and negative thoughts.
Many anxiety sufferers have a low pain tolerance. Chronic pain is common among many people with anxiety disorders. At the University of Utah, regular yoga practice was shown to correlate with a high pain tolerance. The evidence suggests that by relaxing the mind and body, yoga can reduce the pain-related aspects of anxiety.
These studies are part of a growing pool of research that clearly proves that yoga for depression and anxiety can be positively powerful. With tens of thousands of yoga studios in America, this ancient practice is no longer viewed as a new-age pseudoscience. It can deliver powerful results in the treatment of anxiety and the promotion of a relaxed mind and body. Through yoga, anxiety sufferers can take control of their condition and be proactive about its treatment. By engaging in a regular practice, these people can create permanent changes in the way their brain perceives and responds to stress. This approach tackles the deep, root causes of the disorder to make permanent changes that improve well-being.