Beat Stress With Yoga

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Anxiety and depression is on the rise. Official statistics report that currently one in five adults suffer from this form of mental illness.

Even more worrying is the fact that students are one of the groups most vulnerable to anxiety and depression. The pressures exerted from mounting deadlines, the desire to “fit in” and new responsibilities that come with being away from home leave many feeling stressed, lonely and potentially depressed.

Unfortunately this is a problem which is rarely tackled – a survey by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that 1 in 3 students dealt with it by ‘hiding themselves away from the world’.

This signals that it is time we start taking our well-being seriously. Yoga provides us with fun, natural and low-cost way to decrease stress which leads to these illnesses and it promotes a positive, joyful and healthy lifestyle.

But just what does bending, balancing and breathing have to do with reducing depression and anxiety?

According to a Southampton based yoga teacher, Wai Chung;

Active asana stimulates the sympathetic nervous system; then, more-calming poses activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The effect is a moment of quiet that is soothing to the anxious mind. Through a combination of yoga postures, movement, breathing techniques, sound and meditation it is possible for more ease and joy.

And it is not just practitioners of yoga who are seeing the benefits; scientists also have been conducting experiments which back up these claims.

One recent study compared levels of the amino acid GABA in those who practice yoga in comparison to those who take walks for the same amount of time.

GABA is an amino acid which is vital to the functioning of the central-nervous system and the brain, it also helps stimulate feelings of calm and well-being in the body. A low level of GABA is associated with depression and anxiety.  During the tests, scientists found that the levels of GABA were significantly higher in those who practised yoga in comparison to those who did other forms of exercise for the same amount of time.

In addition, a 2013 study by the Massachusetts General Hospital found that yoga produced immediate benefits to immune function, energy levels, metabolism and insulin secretion.

Insulin is important for mental wellbeing because it triggers the production of serotonin. Serotonin is the feel-good neuro-transmitter which is artificially stimulated by drugs like MDMA, cocaine and anti-depressants like Prozac. In short, yoga will give you the long-term benefits of making you happier and healthier (also you don’t have to worry about the come down!).

Let us not forget that yoga can be just as beneficial for the healthy as it is for those suffering from anxiety and depression. If you’re generally interested in self-improvement, getting the most out of life or just want a new hobby; yoga could be for you.

For those interested in attending yoga classes at the University of Southampton, join YogaSoc on Facebook for information on classes.

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

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