Let’s get out of the habit of saying, “I am depressed.” The “I” that is truly who you are is not depressed, but depression may be visiting. In fact, you might even feel that depression has moved in and set up housekeeping. It may be hard to separate the “I” that you are from the down-in-the-dumps part. Yoga can help us do that. As we practice yoga-based skills on and off the mat, we cultivate “witness consciousness.” This sense of witnessing helps us realize that yes, we have emotions like depression and anger and grief and shame, but we are so much more than whatever mood is visiting, so much more than the self-limiting beliefs we may have about ourselves or the world. Yoga, including yogic breathing called pranayama, begins to clear the chronic tension in the physical body and the mental and emotional constrictions we may have in response to the daily challenges we face. After a simple yoga-based practice of breathing, for example, we feel more expansive and spacious within, and more connected to others without. It’s not surprising that we have this subjective experience of reconnecting with ourselves and with others, because that’s exactly what’s happening bio-chemically. Research has shown that we are lowering the stress hormone cortisol when we practice yoga, and we are raising GABA levels, a neurotransmitter that protects us from anxiety and depression. We are also raising oxytocin levels, the ”bonding” hormone that allows us to feel more connected to others.
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For an easy yoga practice you can do at home, take a look at LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues, level 1 DVD.