How blue is blue?
We all have bouts of feeling blue. But sometimes we can become so overwhelmed that it feels like the whole world is pressing down on us and there is no way out.
Energy goes, lethargy sets in, your feeling of self-worth plummets, and you are left with feeling empty most of the time.
It could be just a mood, but it could also be a longer-term mental health situation you have on your hands.
What can you do when you feel like this?
The mix of conventional solutions
If you search the literature, or even visit a mental health professional, they broadly have three tools. They are:
- Medication (and almost certainly at least some side-effects)
They will usually recommend some combination of these, or at least check with you about them.
While not wishing to decry anything that you may be told, or read in the self-help annals, I also suggest that the “exercise” that you consider should be yoga.
Yoga is obviously exercise, but it is also much more than that, as I outline below, and as the research increasingly shows.
I also suggest you try the yoga option before you try the other solutions. Yoga may well be a tool that allows you to manage your situation so you avoid the blues, or at least have a very good chance of managing your mental health on an ongoing and rewarding basis.
If can obviously also be very well used in conjunction with whatever a mental health professional may otherwise recommend.
In short, try joining a yoga course, or doing it at home, or ideally both.
Doing yoga in a live online class, or in-studio, will give you immediate connection with another community. Even more importantly, you are more likely to do it regularly if you are attending online or in-studio classes on a regular schedule, where you are also getting helpful guidance.
Like everything, the benefits of yoga will come from doing it regularly, which means at least several times a week.
Why yoga works for lifting mood
The first reason I suggest starting yoga or try doing more yoga is because yoga is a holistic health system that nourishes your body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
In addition, when you practise yoga postures, you are engaged in releasing a number of natural chemicals into the blood stream which contribute to your emotional wellbeing.
As you’ll also see below, you are working with your very powerful vagus nerve.
You feel good, you feel energised, and the poses help you feel grounded, more in control, confident and happy.
As Amy Weintraub puts it in Yoga for Depression: “Whenever there is depression, there is contraction. Some area of the body or mind is compressed; some area of the emotions is blocked.”
Useful yoga postures for the blues
Yoga postures and pranayama open the way to create space in the body, and in the mind, and to open yourself up to healing, as well as to a different way of being.
Backbends for example lift your chest area and lift your spirits. After practising them your mind feels calm and positive.
In India, for centuries, backbends have been used to help depression and blue moods.
Standing poses also have an important place in uplifting your mood. They teach us much more than it initially seems, including how to stand upright. This apparently simple process lifts the chest and shifts energy through your entire spine.
In the process, standing poses bring a feeling of clarity, determination, and mental steadiness. From a mental perspective, they help us feel “grounded”.
On another front, restorative poses can help us relax and restore our energy. As a result, they also show us a different way of being.
New research points to why yoga helps mental states
Recent academic research from the University of London, in a study of happiness, and how to be happy, suggests your vagus nerve is a key part of why yoga helps with the blues. It says:
“…psychological benefits may be linked to the functioning of the vagus nerve. This, the tenth cranial nerve, is the longest of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s unconscious functioning such as breathing, circulation and digestion…. its functioning is also directly linked to social competence and beneficial emotional regulation.’
Their article in The Conversation reports their study of the effect of yoga poses. They say:
“We found that after performing … yoga poses our participants felt more energetic, empowered, and in control…. Feeling energetic directly affected their confidence and feeling of satisfaction with themselves regardless of their initial levels of self-esteem.”
The two psychologists who did this study provide a scientific explanation of the mind-body aspect of yoga. They say:
“… The dispersed effects of yoga practice can all be linked to a common mechanism: the functioning of the vagus nerve which connects the brain (and therefore the mind) to the body. From the brain stem, the vagus nerve connects facial muscles, heart, lungs, digestive tract, kidneys and reproductive organs. It plays a key role in operating the parasympathetic nervous system which includes the feed-and-breed and rest-and-digest processes, and also regulates heart rate, and promotes calm and soothing states.”
Clearly, it is no accident that yoga makes you feel good, feel happier, and helps you deal with whatever mental condition you want to address.
From their study, these social scientists conclude:
“…This means it’s possible to start off a positive upward spiral of well-being either by affecting the states of the body or the states of the mind.
Research suggests that the proper functioning of the vagus nerve … promotes emotion regulation, social competence, and prosocial behaviour, and dampens aggression, hostility, depression and anxiety.
… yoga practice – meditation, breathing, and performing yoga postures – tones the vagal nerve. Our findings suggest that …[yoga makes]… us feel more satisfied and happy.”
To paraphrase what someone said in a famous movie you may recall; “I’ll have some of that too!”
Indeed, it would be wonderful if more of the whole world could have what yoga can deliver.
How to start or re-start yoga, or see more Posts on this area
If you search for “anxiety” or “depression” on Flametree’s Facebook Page, you also find several more posts, including some about poses that help.
At any time, Beginners can start via our week-to-week deal, including two weeks free. The new four-week beginner course can also be joined at any beginner class in the two weeks after the course starts. As soon as you get a pass, you can also start unlimited free classes at the beginner level. Learn more here.
NON-BEGINNERS, who are new to Flametree, or lapsed students, get 14 days of unlimited classes for just $29. That’s less than $2 a class for daily non-beginner yoga. Learn more here.
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