Yoga is an ancient practice that can be used as a therapy for relieving stress and treating various ailments. It has recently gained popularity - a recent poll found that about 7.5% of U.S. adults had tried yoga at least once, and that nearly 4% practiced yoga in the previous year. There are yoga classes available for all skill levels, ranging from gentle to vigorous. Yoga and other relaxation methods have been studied over the years to measure their effectiveness in treating depression and anxiety.
Depression during Menopause
Depression is a serious mental illness that is characterized by the constant, overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and apathy. According to the World Health Organization, depression is considered a global epidemic, affecting around 5% of the world population.
Studies have shown that rates of depression for Americans have significantly increased in the past 50 years. It increases the risk of depression during menopause, which can be linked to hormone fluctuations - mainly the sudden drop in estrogen - experienced by women.
Depression symptoms can be divided into physical and emotional. Physical symptoms of depression can include fatigue, insomnia, changes in appetite, body aches, cramps, and headaches. Emotional symptoms consist of thoughts of suicide, irritability, loss of interest in activities, and feelings of helplessness, guilt, and worry.
Yoga as Treatment for Depression
There are many different types of yoga, but hatha yoga is the most common one practiced in the United States. There are three elements of yoga: physical poses (called asanas), controlled breathing (practiced in combination with asanas), and short periods of deep relaxation and meditation. Yoga classes can vary from beginner level to challenging and advanced.
Studies suggest yoga can reduce the impact of excessive stress and may be helpful for treating anxiety and depression. By reducing stress and anxiety, yoga appears to lessen stress response systems. This consequently lowers the heart rate, decreases blood pressure, and eases respiration. Yoga, as well as other aerobic activities, releases serotonin - the “feel-good” neurotransmitter - in the brain, which improves mood and reduces stress.
A German studied the effects of yoga on that women who described themselves as “emotionally distressed”. Those women who practiced yoga twice a week for three months reported improvements in stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and well-being. Depression tests improved by 50%, anxiety scores by 30%, and overall well-being scores by 65%. In addition, they experienced improvements in headaches, back pain, and poor sleep quality.
Yoga can be extremely useful in treating symptoms of depression during menopause. It is a low-impact exercise that provides numerous benefits, and can be accommodating to physical ability and preference. Studies have shown that yoga can improve mood, reduce stress, increase flexibility, and improve overall well-being. If yoga alone does not seem to alleviate symptoms of depression, it is best to complement your sessions with other therapies. Read more about treating menopausal depression.
- Harvard Health Publications. (2014). Yoga for anxiety and depression. Retrieved October 24, 2014, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2009/April/Yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression
- National Health Service UK. (2014). Treating clinical depression. Retrieved October 24, 2014, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Depression/Pages/Treatment.aspx
- National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). What Is Depression? Retrieved October 24, 2014, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml