Sunday, September 12, 2010

Yoga for Depression states that 16% of Americans will experience depression at some point in their life. Personally, I find that number to be surprisingly, even astoundingly, low. Perhaps that is because my understanding and briefest linguistic articulation of depression is that it is a disconnect of the self from the world. And, on some level, we all go through periods of disconnect at some point in life. Anyone who has ever experienced it or been close to someone who has felt it understands that depression can be crippling and destructive. It can effectively wipe what would be a normally productive human being from the radar and for that alone is as serious as any other health condition or disease.

The good news is that depression can be treated. It's already understood that exercise has a profound impact on mental health. (See A, B, C, D just for starters.) Coming as little surprise, there are studies being conducted on the potential to use
yoga as a treatment for depression. This article talks about a recent and widely-cited study that shows that yoga can increase levels of the amino acid GABA in the brain. Since low GABA levels have been associated with depression and anxiety, this study suggests that yoga could be used to treat both. The study compares yoga to the equivalent of a “similarly strenuous exercise such as walking,” which makes me wonder what kind of walking they do since my yoga class is nothing like a walk. (Actually, I'm kidding. Yoga can be the act of just breathing deeply, even easier than walking.)

In any case, the authors of the study monitored two groups of people for 12 weeks, half of whom walked for three hours a week and the other half whom spent the same time doing yoga. Twelve weeks doesn’t seem like enough time to prove anything, but apparently, the GABA levels of the yogis were “much” higher than the walkers even after just 12 weeks. Another source cited the study a little differently by stating that yoga is better for the mood than walking and good for decreasing anxiety. The actual study is down-loadable via subscription only.

Point is: yoga had a statistically significant and positive psychological effect on those that practiced.

No comments:

Post a Comment