When you accept and confront your own negative emotions and deal with them constructively, they achieve their purpose (to highlight a problem or change something) and go away. Yoga helps achieve this by working on three components of mental problems:
All three of these lead to dissatisfaction, which has a domino effect: -> negative emotions -> non-acceptance -> stress -> maladaptive behaviour -> stress -> etc. etc. Often ending in pathological behaviour (mental problems)
We experience or imagine many expectations from ourselves, our family and society. Because of so much of baggage we become fragile. If this happens or this does not happen, or if someone says this or does not say, if my relationships break up, if I lose th is or I gain this which I don’t want, if I do not get this, if I cannot do this, if problems come in between my path, if this is difficult for me to achieve - then I will break down.
The yogic treatment for dep ression is similar as for anxiety, because the causes are similar. They are both responses to stress; in anxiety, the person fights the stress, in depression, the person gives up and surrenders to it. Both can be relieved through vagus nerve and hypothalam us stimulation. Stress arises due to a fear imbalance (inappropriate over - activation of the fight - or - flight response) so restoring balance is a major aim of treatment. To counter the fight - or - flight response, the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulate d. Pranayama is especially helpful, e.g. deep breathing, brahmari, ujjayi, anulom vilom; also yoga nidra, uddiyana bandha. Meditation is introduced later as it is too confrontational for anxiety that is not yet under some control in the mind. Mudras reset the pranic energy (like a computer’s ctrl+alt+del). Asanas release the fight - or - flight response. With pratyahara (sense withdrawal) it’s best to start gently e.g. walking.
Asanas help because they take attention away from emotions to the body parts being worked. They also increase tolerance to discomfort and decrease reactivity to body sensations. Over a period of time, an anxious person can stay longer in a pose and even relax. This teaches them to relax in stressful situations instead of experiencing sym pathetic nervous system reactions. Due to the relaxation, the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated.
Initially asana should not be held to the point that they feel uncomfortable. Instead, it needs to be built up over at least one month. An anxious p erson should start with dynamic practice (surya namaskar, vinyasa) to ease into it, and then start holding poses for longer during the dynamic practice. Taking good care of an anxious person is more important than asana.
In terms of cleansing practices, ja la neti works on the frontal lobe. This is the area involved in planning and judgment but also emotions. It forms a part of the emotional circuit, as it is connected to the amygdala (primal emotions) via the cortex. Jala neti calms this circuit.
Mood disor ders are characterised by hopelessness, which yoga considers to be caused by overstimulation of ida nadi (moon principle - feminine, right side of brain, left side of body). Right nostril stimulates physical activity whilst the left stimulates mental. So wh en the left side is overstimulated, this results in lethargy, digestive problems etc. A depressed person may not want to do asanas, but less physical practices can be very beneficial too. The key yogic practices include
Yoga nidra can be helpful in depression but for some people it is not helpful at all, similarly as with anxiety it may be too confrontational in the mind and lead to deeper depression. Both anxious and depres sed people should sleep on their left side, which aids right nostril breathing and so helps the mind become quiet.
Yogic treatment can include vaman practiced on an empty stomach, if the patient is open to it. Yoga nidra is also very benef icial, with a personalised visualisation focusing on positive lifestyle. It is important not to imply blame by making it seem like it’s an attitude or perspective problem.
Relaxation – when body is relaxed, the mind can be confronted & problems can be resolved. Examples include shavasana, yoga nidra and deep breathing.
Meditation – when we become aware of our deeper self, we come face to face with our inner nature, inner conflicts and suppressed mental contents. Meditation can include Om chanting, So - Ham, Kundalini meditation, Prana meditation.
Mantras – Increase willpower, develops control over thoughts and thought process and provides strength to resolves
Mental relaxation techniques – Resets the mind by ‘closing the account’ at nigh t, helps you live in the moment and is importance in relation to living a complete life, helps with acceptance of me and my world. The aim is to make friends with the mind by observing and learning the types of thoughts we have and the ways to deal with th em (As per Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras).
Thought study techniques - Evaluate good opposed to bad thoughts, stressful opposed to relaxing thoughts. Do relaxing activities. Evaluate relevance of thoughts by writing them down. Write down all thoughts (negative or any other disturbing thoughts) and burn them mentally or on a real flame. Write mantra in a notebook preferably in Sanskrit (mantra can be “I am healthy & happy”). Counter the thought – learn to think 2 times a positive thought every time you have a negati ve thought.
Richard J. Davidson, PhD, Jon Kabat - Zinn, PhD, brain & immune function - Significant increases in left - sided anterior activation, a pattern previously associated with positive affect, in the meditators compa red with the nonmeditators. Significant increases in antibody titers to influenza vaccine among subjects in the meditation compared with those in the wait - list control group.
Kirkwood G, et al. "Yoga for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of the Research," Brit ish Journal of Sports Medicine (Dec. 2005): Vol. 39
Yoga and stress response. (Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School, (2008). )
Yoga can reduce the stress of cancer diagnosis and treatment experienced by childhood cancer patients and their parents. The findings were published in the September/October 2010 edition of Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing, published by the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON).
Mandlik G et al. Yoga Vidya Gurukul, “A cross cultural study of Yogic life style on Anxiety and Optimism.” 2009
Dr B.N. Gangadhar. Chanting “Om” stimulates the central nervous system, giving relief from mental health issues including depression, anxiety and even epilepsy.
The mantra has the potential to work on the Vagus nerve, stimulating the brain through its auricular branches.
Jill E. Bormann, Steven Thorp, Julie L. Wetherell, & Shahrokh Golshan (2008). A Spiritually Based Group Intervention for Combat Veterans with Po sttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Holistic Nursing v26 n2, pp 109 - 116. PMID 18356284, DOI: 10.1177/0898010107311276.
Fifty - five participants (83.3%), both veterans and VA staff, practiced the mantram technique and reported 147 stressful incidents in which it was helpful.
The most frequently reported uses of the mantram were for managing: emotions other than stress (i.e., impatience, anger, frustration – 51%), stress (23.8%), insomnia (12.9%), and unwanted thoughts (12.3%).
Of the veterans who parti cipated, nearly all were male and seven had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, while six suffered from PTSD.
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