Depression has been the subject of many conversations. It has been portrayed in mainstream media and most metropolitan cities in India now provide mental health awareness and solutions through different means. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 264 million are affected by depression every year all over the world. Yoga is one of the few therapeutic ways to treat illnesses such as depression and anxiety. It may be prescribed to some individuals as an alternative to antidepressant pills or other medical forms of healing.
Depression is sometimes loosely used among conversations, with some conversations confusing sadness as depression. Though sadness is among the many symptoms, depression when clinically diagnosed is a state of depressed mood and lack of interest in everyday activities that were once routine or enjoyable, for a period of 6 months or more. Depression has many symptoms such as restlessness, social isolation, hopelessness, sudden changes in weight, appetite and a disrupted sleep cycle. Suicidal thoughts or self-harm are more advanced stages of depression where mental help and care is an emergency.
People are likely to suffer from depression in today’s urban, fast-paced lifestyle with depression affecting more women than men. Statistics show that about 800000 people die of suicide every year, with suicide being the second-highest cause of death among people aged 15-29-year-olds. This is an alarming fact as young people make up the majority of the workforce among many industries. Student suicide rates are skyrocketing due to unrealistic academic expectations. Stigmatizing mental treatment like therapy and the lack of openly discussing the topic is one of the factors contributing to increase in depression rates.
Though people suffering from depression don’t show it, there are a few signs that someone might be affected.
- Signs of withdrawal from social activities
- Changes in appetite/weight
- Possible mood swings
- Persistent sadness
- Lack of concentration or focus
Due to social media and influencers increasing awareness on mental health, promoting open talks on common mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, the stigma is slowly diminishing. Online support groups, availability of therapists in various academic and workplace settings are encouraging people to seek treatment. Workplaces and schools have taken up hosting mental health seminars by experts.
For normal yoga practitioners, it is a challenge to maintain a breathing rhythm and holding an asana for an extended period of time. For individuals with depression, this can be a form of exercise that is good for total body stability and an endorphin boost at the end of the session which will leave them feeling good.
Meditation is an integral part of yoga and the ultimate aim is to gain control of your mind which takes years of practice. Practising meditation regularly will lead in improved mental health among individuals with depression as they will be in control of thoughts and positive affirmations. Enduring asanas for a significant amount of time will slowly build the mental toughness one needs to ward off all thoughts and stay present and focused in the moment. Yoga also helps with back pain and other physical issues and hence is a complete package yielding positive results in a physical, mental and spiritual well being.
Yoga has been India’s gift to the world with many instructors and institutions teaching yoga in various styles such as Yin yoga, power yoga, Ashtanga yoga, etc. It is practised around the world and has proved results, which has led to its increase in popularity and more people preaching it as part of their lifestyle. Mental health and yoga can be considered synonymous as the latter promotes better lifestyle habits which will eventually lead to healing from illnesses like depression and anxiety.
Also read: The Science Behind – Meditation