LifeForce Yoga® for Depression Research & News
From Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT (500),
author, Yoga for Depression (Broadway Books)
“You, more than anyone else, Deserve your love and affection.”
“That we may have come to see ourselves as separate and shut off from others is the central dilemma that we methodically dismantle in our Yoga practice because it is from this false sense of separation that we create so much of our own suffering and contribute to the suffering around us.”
Donna Farhi, Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everday Practice of Enlightened Living
Message from Amy:
If you are taking your first baby steps onto a yoga mat, treating yourself with love and affection, as the Buddha suggests, isn’t always easy, especially in the beginning, when you see how stiff you really are, or how you’ve been refusing to listen to your body’s messages for a long time. But like yoga asanas, loving oneself is a practice, cultivated over time. As you practice with attention to the sensations in your body and to your breath, there is a natural blossoming of love and affection. It does, I promise you, become easier to treat yourself with the love and affection you deserve.
What eventually happens on the mat, as Donna Farhi so beautifully suggests, is a falling away of the sense of a separate self. As we begin to feel the unity that is yoga in our embodied practice on the mat– that energy that is flowing through every cell and that flows through all beings–we see our own lives as sacred. We have no choice but to treat what is sacred with love and affection.
But it begins simply and sometimes unexpectedly, as my able assistant, Rose Kress, also the president of the Arizona Yoga Association, writes in her “Message from the President” in the current AYA Newsletter:
“I teach in a couple of gyms and everyday I see people working hard to perfect a yoga pose, or their abs, or their tennis swing – sometimes people come to yoga so that they can enhance their performance on the tennis court or in a bicycle tournament. But sooner or later a practitioner will begin to feel the “other” effects of yoga.
“Yoga used as a tool for overall well being can ease the pain of a breakup, can support a couple’s journey from miscommunication to communication, or help a person to function at peak performance in a crisis.
“Some of my students in the gym have come to my class in the hopes of regaining the flexibility that they once had. These same students have begun to tell me stories of using pranayama in the doctor’s office to lower their anxiety. They have also told me of releasing anger issues around situations at work. More importantly, they speak of how they have grown to love and accept themselves as they are. The physical act of yoga has brought these students the tools to encounter the reality of change with ease and grace. This is the gift of yoga.”
Another way to offer yourself love and affection is to choose good summer reading–books that stimulate your mind and open your heart; books that provide valuable wisdom on the road to healing mind, body, and spirit, and living a happier life. In that light, we have reviewed several new books or reissues by Swami Radha, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Henry Emmons, M.D., Russil Paul and others.
Blessings and welcome to the 8th issue of LifeForce Yoga® for Depression Research & News! In this issue, in addition to the book reviews, you’ll find an energizing practice suggestion for lifting the mood, current research and news with a bit of commentary, and my current schedule of workshops and trainings.
In this Issue:
Schedule of Workshops & Trainings
We are currently conducting a study evaluating the effects of the LifeForce Yoga® program, which involves yogic breathing exercises (pranayama and kriya), mantra chanting, mudra (hand gestures), yoga postures (asanas), visualizations (bhavana), relaxation (yoga nidra) and meditation. We will be asking those taking the program to volunarily participate in an evaluation of the potential benefits of the LifeForce Yoga® program, for managing mood. Most reports of yoga’s benefits in this area are anecdotal. If you are attending a LifeForce Yoga® workshop in the near future, your participation is important to help us obtain an empirically valid foundation for the use of yoga as a complementary treatment for depression and mood disorders.
The evaluation will consist of the completion of a paper questionnaire at three times, once upon arrival in the workshop, once by e-mail two weeks upon completion of the workshop, and once, by e-mail, two months after the completion of the workshop. The questionnaire will focus on mood and general well-being. Completion of the all of the questionnaires will take less than 10 minutes on each occasion.
Tucson Retreat/Training RETREAT & TRAINING ANNOUNCEMENT
Our SECOND annual LifeForce Yoga® Healing Intensive in Tucson, which offers CE credit for Yoga Teachers and mental health professionals (NASW/AZ pending) and is open to all, including beginners, will be held January 6 – 11th, 2007, the best time to come to sunny Tucson. We are beginning to accept reservations now. I am grateful to Susan and the folks at the Redemptorist Renewal Center at Picture Rocks in the Tucson Mountains (120 acres adjoining Saguaro National Park, watched over my Hohokam petroglyphs) for inviting us to their outstanding and affordable retreat center in prime time. Please click here to read more about the retreat and to register on-line. The early bird discount applies until October 1st.
PRACTICE: For Lifting the Mood
This is a four-part sequence, adapted from a Viniyoga sequence suggested by Gary Kraftsow in Yoga for Wellness: Healing with the Timeless Teachings of Viniyoga.
Come into a high kneeling position, knees hip-width apart. As you inhale, raise your arms over your head. Feel yourself lifted up internally. Imagine that you can lift the bottom of your heart. Smile into your heart. Put a soft smile on your face. Let your eyes roll up behind their lids.
As you exhale come forward onto your forearms, with your tailbone lifted.
As you inhale, rise onto your palms in a table position, with your tailbone lifted and your crown lifted. (Cow Pose) Your pelvis is tilted up and back; your belly hammocks down and out of the pelvis; your heart is lifted, your shoulders are drawn back; your eyes are rolled up behind their lids. Hold the breath.
As you exhale, round the spine like a cat, draw the belly back to the spine, the chin to the chest and sink your hips on your heels, forehead on the mat, with your arms extended.
As you inhale, “fly up,” returning to your original high kneeling position with your arms over your head.
Repeat this sequence up to eight times. When you have finished, sit for a moment on your heels, with your hands folded in your lap and observe what you’re feeling in your physical body and your emotional body. You may feel a lightness in your solar plexus and an expanded, open feeling in your heart. Let the energy circulate throughout your body.
Excerpted from YOGA FOR DEPRESSION: A Compassionate Guide to Relieve Suffering Through Yoga (Broadway Books)www.yogaforde pression.com
RESEARCH: Iyengar Yoga Protocal Reduces Stress
According to a study conducted in Germany and published last November in the Medical Science Monitor, three months of twice weekly Iyengar Yoga classes significantly reduced stress among distressed women. As compared to a “waiting list” control group, participants showed pronounced and significant improvements in perceived stress, well- being, vigor, fatigue and depression. Physical well- being also increased, and those subjects suffering from headache or back pain reported marked pain relief. The stress hormone cortisol decreased significantly after participation in a single yoga class.
Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three- month intensive yoga program. Michalsen A, Grossman P, Acil A, Langhorst J, Ludtke R, Esch T, Stefano GB, Dobos GJ. Med Sci Monit. 2005 Dec;11(12):CR555-561. Epub 2005 Nov 24. Department of Integrative and Internal Medicine V, Kliniken Essen-Mitte, Chair of Complementary Medicine at the University Duisburg-Essen, Germany. firstname.lastname@example.org
RESEARCH: MENOPAUSE AND DEPRESSION
Two new studies, one from the University of Pennsylvania and another from Harvard, indicate that many women who have no history of depression will suffer from the illness as they transition into menopause.
Antidote: A compassionate practice of yoga, with restorative poses, as well as active poses, pranayama breathing exercises, including sitali- -a cooling breath, and yoga nidra (yogic sleep done in a supine position).
RESEARCH/COMMENTARY: Depressed Mothers Effect their Babies
The importance of Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga
Several years ago, 4,041 outpatients with nonpsychotic major depression in 41 real world clinical settings were enrolled in a study underwritten by the National Institute of Mental Health. The study, STAR*D (Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression) is beginning to publish its findings. One interesting finding in a subgroup of the study–depressed mothers with young children– found that when the mother’s symptoms were alleviated, her child was less likely to be depressed. In the authors’ words: “Remission of maternal depression has a positive effect on both mothers and their children, whereas mothers who remain depressed may increase the rates of their children’s disorders. These findings support the importance of vigorous treatment for depressed mothers in primary care or psychiatric clinics and suggest the utility of evaluating the children, especially children whose mothers continue to be depressed.”
COMMENTARY: When pregnant women study yoga in prenatal classes, not only are they learning ways to relax that can make their labor easier, but they are establishing a support network with other new mothers. There are many studies documenting the positive effect on mood of community. These women will be less likely to feel depressed after their babies are born. Not only will they have a practice to reduce the stress of caring for a newborn, but they will have a network of others in similar life circumstances with whom they can communicate, reducing their isolation.
NEWS: SMILING LIFTS THE MOOD
Botox and Depression
A small-scale pilot trial, published in the May 15 journal Dermatologic Surgery, found that Botox injected into frown lines around the mouth or in forehead furrows of 10 women eliminated depression symptoms in nine of them and reduced symptoms in the 10th.
The study results fit with a large body of psychological research that has long shown that the mere act of smiling – even the most insincere “Say Cheese” smile for a photo – makes people feel better. Frowns make them feel worse.
But before you spend $400 on a Botox treatment, injecting botulism in your Third Eye (Ajna Chakra), why not practice a little Smile Yoga.
Try this Smile Yoga practice:
Inhale, then as you exhale, drop your chin to your chest. Lift the corners of your mouth. Inhale. Lift your head. Exhale and open your eyes.
You’ve just created a paradigm shift in your central nervous system, and you’ve lifted your mood.
NEWS: SEED MONEY AVAILABLE
LifeForce Yoga® Practitioners May Apply for Grants from TeraMundi
Funds may be available from TeraMundi, a nonprofit foundation that offers yoga to underserved populations. If you are offering LifeForce Yoga® for Depression and Anxiety to underserved populations in your area, please contact Maria Mendola, TeraMundi Executive Director at email@example.com. Please visit www.teramundi.com for more information about applying for a grant. “Funds are limited,” says Maria, “but we do have “seed” dollars to help jumpstart programs.”
NEWS: Mood Improvement Slow after VNS Surgery
Vagal Nerve Stimulator has drawbacks
Researchers followed eight patients who had Vagal nerve stimulation implants, a new type of therapy for treatment-resistant depression, and found that it can take between three and 12 months before its benefits are first felt by patients.
As described in earlier editions of this newsletter, the vagal nerve stimulator is implanted in the chest with wires that run under the skin to the vagal nerve in the neck. The device emits electrical pulses to stimulate the brain. The therapy was approved in 2005 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat severe treatment-resistant depression. It’s also used to treat epilepsy.
The device costs $35,000, not including the surgeon’s fee and hospitalization, and has a variety of side effects. Given the drawbacks, why not consider Kriya breathing practices, which are likely to stimulate the vagal nerve. But watch out for a known side effect– you might wake up! (Please, learn Kriya practices from a qualified yoga teacher. Kriya practices are not recommended for those suffering from bipolar disorder with a tendency toward mania.)
UPCOMING CALENDAR HIGHLIGHTS
All LifeForce Yoga® workshops, retreats, & trainings offer continuing education credit for Yoga Alliance.
At Kripalu Center, July 2 – 7th, we’ll be offering the LifeForce Yoga® Training for Anxiety and Depression for psychotherapists and yoga teachers. Those taking the course will receive CEU credits and listing on the Yoga for Depression web site as a “LifeForce Practitioner.” http ://www.kripalu.org
At Omega Institute, July 7th – 9th, We’ll be offering “Breathe to Beat the Blues,” a weekend of yogic breathing, meditation and chanting, along with some simple movement, to awaken the Lifeforce within you and balance your mood. http://www.eomega.org/omega/faculty/viewProfile/ a07cf714e1087a39006e3e198c326f6f
Also at Omega, July 10th – 14th, we’ll be offering “LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues,” a stimulating five days of yoga asana, mantra chanting, yogic breathing, meditation, trauma releasing exercises, and small group process. This program is designed to clear the obstructions that are limiting the free flow of your own healing energy. You will learn yogic strategies to manage your mood. http://www.eom ega.org/omega/workshops/1b7a3eab901c8b2843badb 00a5196fce/
There are no LifeForce programs in August.
I will be on the road again in September, offering “Breathe to Beat the Blues” and “LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues” at Kripa lu from September 8th – 15th.
I’ll be presenting at the Omega Yoga Conference in New York City over the weekend of September 15th – 17th. www. eomega.org
The following weekend, I’ll offer a new program called “LifeForce Yoga®…Brain Changing Yoga” in Rhode Island at All That Matters, September 22 – 24th. One session on Sunday is for yoga teachers and psychotherapists. www.allthatma tters.com
In October, I’ll make my first visit to the Midwest, teaching at Expressions of Grace Yoga in Grand Rapids, MI, Oct 7 – 9th.
Once again, I’ll be the LifeForce Facilitator, for the Psychothe rapy Networker Symposium – West in San Francisco, leading daily yoga and meditation classes and an all-day pre- conference institute, October 19th – 22nd. www .psychotherapynetworker.org
July 2 – 7, 2006 LifeForce Yoga® Training for Depression & Anxiety, Kripalu Center, 800-741- 7353
July 7 — 9th, 2006 Breathe to Beat the Blues, Omega Institute, 800-944- 1001
July 10 — 14th, 2006 LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues, Omega Institute, 800-944- 1001
September 8–10, 2006 Breathe to Beat the Blues, Kripalu Center, 800-741- 7353
September 10–15, 2006 LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues, Kripalu Center, 800-741- 7353
New York, NY
September 15–17, 2006 Presenter, Omega Institute Yoga Conference, 800-944- 1001
September 22–24, 2006 LifeForce Yoga®…Brain Changing Yoga, All That Matters 401-782- 2126 www.allthatma tters.com
Grand Rapids, MI
October 7 – 9
LifeF orce Yoga for Mood Management Weekend, Expressions of Grace Yoga, 5161 Northland Dr. NE, 616-361-8589 www .expressionsofgraceyoga.com
San Francisco, CA
October 19th – 22nd, 2006
Psychotherapy Networker Symposium West – Amy will lead a Pre-Conference Day-Long Workshop, Morning Yoga & Afternoon Integration practice. www.psychotherapynetworker.org
November 3-5, 2006 Yoga to Beat the Blues, The Crossings,</ u> 877-944-3003
November 11, 2006
12:30 – 5:30 pm
LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues, Yoga Youphoria, 40th Street & Chandler Blvd., near Trader Joe’s, 4025 E. Chandler Blvd. #22, www.yogayou phoria.com 480 706-5400
November 17-19, 2006 LifeForce Yoga® for Anxiety & Depression, Schoolhouse Yoga, www.schoolhouseyoga.com, 412.401.4444, 141 41st & Foster Street. (1 Blk. From 40th St Bridge) Yoga Alliance CEU’s.
January 6 – 11th, 2007 LifeForce Yoga® Healing Intensive (CE credits available) in Tucson. Click here to go to the brochure
Info: Rose Kress – 520 349- 2644.
Los Angeles, CA
January 12 – 21st, 2007 IAYT International Yoga Therapy Symposium, LAX Hilton, www.iayt.org
February 23-25, 2007
LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues, Kripalu Center, 800-741- 7353
June 4 – 6, 2007 LifeForce Yoga® for Anxiety & Depression, Arkansas Yoga Center, www.aryoga.com, (479) 521- YOGA (9642), 1949 Green Acres Road. Yoga Alliance CEU’s.
Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language—20th Anniversary Edition by Swami Sivananda Radha (Timeless Books, 2006)
One of my first yoga book purchases was Swami Radha’s Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language, originally published by Shambhala. The language of yoga, as spoken by Swami Radha, spoke to my heart. Reading her beautiful book in 1989 was an experience of validation for my own perception of the world through imagery and metaphor. Swami Radha speaks to the beauty and depth of a yoga posture as she invites her readers and students to explore the traditional symbol of each pose. Such an invitation stimulates the student’s sense of adventure, as she begins to discover layers of meaning in a pose, even as she stays present to body sensations. Radha’s use of imagery speaks to the unconscious mind and deepens the experience of posture.
In the light of its symbol, each pose becomes a true connection, a way of finding union with all of nature and unitive consciousness within. For example, in a lovely meditation on padmasana (lotus pose), she says, “The beauty of the lotus and the murkiness of the water point to the opposites that make up life.” And later, in the same essay, she tells us of the lotus seed found by botanists that had remained dormant for 2,000 years, which sprouted after it was placed in water. “Similarly, the spiritual seed, which is within the heart of everyone—made up of love, consideration, beauty, peace and happiness—will come to life given the right circumstances, even after being dormant for uncounted births.
Although I miss the lyrical drawings included in the original text, in this reissue of this classic, Timeless Books has included a number of features, not in the original that enhance the 20th Anniversary Edition. For example, there are now practice instructions for each pose, written by Swami Radha herself, presumably for her students. Appendices have been added that include a practice called “The Divine Light Invocation,” and sections on Kundalini Yoga and the Chakras, the power of mantra chanting, and a poetic guided visualization of the lotus. Whether you are taking your first baby steps onto the path of yoga or have been traveling that path for many years, Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language will illuminate the way.
The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice by Rabbi Rami Shapiro (Skylight Paths Publishing, 2006)
The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness is a blueprint for moving from “narrow mind” to “spacious mind” through the cultivation of the thirteen attributes of lovingkindness as described in Exodus. Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes from a faith steeped in the mystical tradition of Judaism, but he draws from the mystical roots of all religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism.
Although “God,” in the author’s understanding, is not imposed on the reader, this is a theological book that is at once both dualistic: God, the Creator, exists as other than me, a divine presence to whom I may pray; and nondualistic: God as creative force, awake and manifest in all.
Rabbi Shapiro reminds us of the Book of Genesis’s claim that we were created in the “image and likeness of God.” According to Shapiro, by taking human birth, we are taking the “image” of God, but we must choose to become the “likeness.” He puts it this way: “Being the likeness of God means that we have the potential to act in a godly manner. It means that we can, regardless of our ideology, theology, and politics, engage each moment and each other with lovingkindness.”
Shapiro is honest about his own struggles and strategies for removing the obstacles to “spacious mind.” The book suggests many prayers and practices for cultivating lovingkindness. Although none are embodied, there are a number of meditations like the Buddhist practices of metta and tonglen. Shapiro writes from a clear and inspired place that may inspire you as well. In a discussion of how we cannot change ourselves or others, he says “What changes us is our encounter with reality.” In the chapter called “Fearless Compassion,” he says, “Compassion transforms relationships, not by changing anything, but by revealing everything.” In the chapter called “Engaging Life Through Grace,” Shapiro writes, “The opposite of grace is not God’s enmity but your own anxiety.”
In this time of political, ethnic, religious divisions, upon which wars are being waged, each narrow- minded faction, claiming God on their side, this is a much-needed book. Written with love and respect for all religions and their practitioners, it has the potential to heal the divisive separations among people of faith.
The Chemistry of Joy: A Three Step Program for Overcoming Depression through Western Science and Eastern Wisdom by Henry Emmons, M.D., with Rachel Kranz. (Fireside, 2006)
Whether you’re a consumer or provider of mental health services, The Chemistry of Joy is a wonderful resource that can help you or your clients establish and maintain emotional balance and physical well-being. This very sane book balances a Western medical perspective with two complementary Eastern perspectives—the yogic science of Ayurvedic medicine and Buddhist wisdom. From both Eastern points of view, Dr. Emmons, a psychiatrist who studied the integration of natural and alternative therapies, shows you how to determine your type (one of three) and treat your mood imbalance accordingly. He includes a wide variety of complementary treatments for depression and anxiety that can help you construct a whole-life program for your mood and constitution. Included also, is an overview of current allopathic treatments for depression, their benefits and side effects. There is also a good section on nutrition and food supplements, arranged so that recommendations are made for each of the three types.
The Chemistry of Joy is especially valuable as a reference. There is an excellent index and several appendices that direct the reader to alternative treatments, be they nutritional, herbal, exercise, breathing, diet or “schedule and life changes” specific to her type.
Rachel Kranz did much of the writing, and her novelistic skills make this book accessible and fun to read.
The Yoga of Sound: Tapping the Hidden Power of Music and Chant by Russill Paul (New World Library, 2006)
Studies have shown that chanting elevates the mood. Russill Paul’s award-winning book, The Yoga of Sound, chronicles the different eras of chanting in India. Separated into five sections, Paul discusses yoga, mantra, the traditions of chanting, the practice of chanting, its physiological and psychological effects, and how to integrate this practice into your life. He provides suggestions from his own practice, describes the mantras he uses, and why he practices this way. The book includes four appendices with mantras from each historical era, a pronunciation guide, and the effect of particular tones on the central nervous system. There is also a tutorial CD of music and exercises to help you learn the mantras. Paul’s intention in writing The Yoga of Sound is to “create a holistic and evolutionary approach to a rapidly growing interest in Sanskrit mantra and the widespread use of chanting as a spiritual practice in the Western world.” Paul is an excellent guide through the history and practice of sound yoga. For more information about chanting and Paul’s work, visit www.russillpaul.com.
–Rose Kress, RYT
REVIEW: Practice CD
Healing Yoga for Every Body by Karen O’Donnell Clarke (Clarke, 2006)
Healing Yoga for Every Body by Clarke is the perfect practice for the person whose has very limited mobility or is suffering from any illness. The goal of the CD is to “guide you into a place of deep inner stillness and relaxation.” The session begins with a body scan, and then proceeds through breath awareness and gentle joint movements. The second half of the CD includes a guided healing meditation, a short yoga nidra, a breath meditation and relaxation. Throughout the CD, Clarke is accompanied by beautiful native flute music that guides the practitioner into a deep state of relaxation. Clarke leads the listener through a relaxing practice that leaves the body and mind invigorated. The person who is stressed or sleep deprived will find themselves calm, relaxed and clear-headed. The person who is ill or suffering from limited mobility will find that they have made healthy connections with their body and will have a better outlook on their recovery. For more information on Clarke’s work, please visit www.yogahealsus .com
–Rose Kress, RYT
McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Weekly
In his excellent on-line newsletter, editor/writer John McManamy reports on current research, particularly related to pharmaceuticals. However, he also keeps readers in the know about complementary treatments, new books and other resources. John is working on a book about bipolar disorder. You can subscribe by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Subscribe” in the heading and your email address in the body. www.mcmanweb. com
International Association of Yoga Therapists
This organization maintains a vast database of Yoga research, a library, publishes a yearly journal, and a tri-annual newsletter with current research and articles. In addition, IAYT maintains a searchable online member database, which folks can use to locate a Yoga therapist/teacher in their local area. (They currently do not do any verification of training and experience.) If you are a health professional, a Yoga teacher or therapist or have an interest in Yoga therapeutics, I highly encourage you to become a member. www.iayt.org
Yoga for Depression
To learn move about Yoga for Depression (Broadway Books)
To listen to Amy’s audio practice CD, Breathe to Beat the Blues
Blessings on recovering and maintaining your positive mental health!