Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Abbie Roy: Yoga as a Treatment for Depression

Yoga as a Treatment for Depression
 Abagail Roy
Lesley University

Depression is the leading mental illness in adults and often occurs with other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, and arthritis (Weintraub, 2004). There are many actions other than taking antidepressant medications to cope with depression that individuals can do.  Recent studies point to yoga as a promising intervention for depression, yoga is cost-effective and easy to implement (Shapiro, 2006).  The aspects of yoga including mindfulness promotion and exercise are thought to be “active ingredients” of other successful treatments for depression.  It is difficult to determine whether the mood-enhancing effects of yoga are general or specific to certain approaches or teachers.  What part of yoga helps with depression?  Is it the breathing, physical postures, the relaxing mental state we get in, or all of the above?
Yoga as a Treatment for Depression
Many people all over the world are diagnosed with major depression.  An estimate of 1 in 10 U.S. adults report depression.  Women and people ages 45 to 64 are most likely to be the ones depressed.  Adults aged 18 to 24 were reported to have “other depression.”  Other depressions are different mental illnesses, rather than major depression (CDC, 2011).  There are many actions that adults with depression can take to cope with the illness.  However, their first option should not be medication, because there is more of a risk of a person becoming addicted or loosing himself or herself, or the risk of gain another disorder by taking medication.  Recently research has been done to see if participating in yoga classes would eliminate depression, or make it easier to cope with.  According to Professors and students at UCLA who researched this topic, specific types of yoga like Hatha uses different forms of yoga.  Therefore it was difficult to determine whether the mood-enhancing effects of yoga are general or specific to certain approaches or teachers (Woolery, 2004).
Depression is a medical illness that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest, while also being able to cause physical symptoms.  It affects how you feel, think, and behave.  People may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities and Depression may make you feel as if life isn’t worth living. Depression is a chronic illness that usually requires long-term treatment.  During this long-term treatment, patients often experience Continuation Therapy and Maintenance Therapy.  During Continuation Therapy patients attend a 4 to 6 month therapy session.  This is to prevent relapse.  Maintenance Therapy is a treatment designed to prevent recurrence or the development of a new episode (Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc, 2007).  Also during these treatments patients are most often given medication.  The most common treatment for this illness is antidepressants. Antidepressants lift your mood and ease the sadness and hopelessness you feel.  Some people may need to try different types of depression drugs to find their perfect fit (Louise, 2011).  Even though drugs are the first things that are offered for treatment, it’s important to look at other natural ways of healing from depression.  Healing the natural way is known to be healthy and more efficient. 
Treatment Process
After looking at multiple studies and research on yoga being used as treatment for depression, they have been overlapping the same techniques and ideas.  To test the theory the researchers have a controlled group who is not attending yoga classes along with a group doing the experiment.  Each person would continue this study; attend the yoga class for consecutive 5 weeks (Woolery, 2004). Experienced senior yogi instructors led most the yoga classes (Shapiro, 2006).
From the yogic perspective, the backbends and other chest opening poses emphasized in the yoga classes may countered the slumped body posture associated with depression.  Attending yoga classes may provide stress relief by combing intense focus on joint and muscle movements during the classes with relaxation at the end of class (Woolery, 2004). Feeling relaxed is something that can be helpful when you are treating depression, because it makes your body less likely to continue having episodes of depression. 
I personally feel that the studies were constantly finding supportive feedback because the depressed adults were focusing on something else other than their depression. In general when you stop thinking about the awful things in your life, you tend to forget about them, or focus on the present moment without negativity. In 2008 a yoga study was done as a six-week program for treatment of mental illness, incorporating breaking techniques, exercises for strength, vitality, and flexibility, guided relaxation, and meditation.  It was hypothesis that during this program it would strengthen their resistance to emotional distress.  Out of the three groups that were practicing yoga, the yoga beginner group showed lower average levels of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress (Campbell, 2008).  UCLA also found that it might just be practicing yoga short-term that has the therapeutic benefits for people experiencing mild levels of depression (Woolery, 2004). Yogic breathing is a unique method for balancing the autonomic nervous system and influencing psychological and stress-related disorders (Brown & Gerbarg, 2005).  This disorder could possible be fixed with a continuing yoga only for a short time. 
Today’s Society Views
In today’s society we represent yoga as being physical exercise, relaxation, and uplifts effect on moods.   There have been multiple different studies where patients would attend yoga classes, and this would determine how yoga could be a treatment for depression.  Preliminary findings have been that potential of yoga as a treatment depended if the patient was in remission, or on medication (Shapiro, 2006).  It was shown that when the patient was taking a small dosage of an anti-depressant, yoga as a treatment was very effective.  Another study helped explain that often veterans who had PTSD and depression reacted strongly to the yoga as treatment, as long as they continued with therapy (Harvard Health, 2009). The conclusions came to, yoga as treatment in today’s society is affected and will continue to be affective as long as there is another therapy method to join the yoga. 
            Even though we focus yoga today in the West as being only exercise, that could be good for depressed individuals.  A person is depressed because they feel helpless, sad, and loss all control of self.  Some people when focusing on other things like fitness for an example, makes people forget about what was making them upset.  If clinically depressed patients focus on yoga as a sport, they could possible forget about their depression. 
The Developing World’s Views
Recently many people in the West have found that the Eastern traditions of yoga, speak directly to these problems of Being.  They had discovered that the Yoga traditions were interested precisely in the problem of ordinary human suffering and misery.  Yogis, primarily in India over the course of thousands of years, explored every aspect of human suffering-physical, mental, behavioral, emotion, and spiritual.  They became experts, without really knowing it (Weintraub, 2004).  The great thing about the past of yoga traditions is they don’t give us any one particular way to be. 
            According to some cultures, causes and symptoms of depression and appropriate anti-depressive behavior is mediated by cultural values and beliefs that the individual has been exposed to in their formative years, which subsequently affects their tendency to recognize, report and seek help for depression (Furnham & Malik, 2013).  Natural approaches are the first main focus in cultures when someone is depressed, or has a mental illness.  Antidepressants are last resort and often not even thought of. 
Close Findings “Conversations with my peers”
As I talked about my research project on “Yoga as a Treatment for Depression”, I got different reactions from my peers. When college students, young adults attend a yoga class for the first time their reactions are “its so relaxing, I really enjoyed the class.”  For the 60 minutes that the yogi instructs you through different poses, and exercises our bodies move into a deep relaxation.  Our minds are blank and all negativity is gone.  The first yoga class us young students attend is usually just the start of a great healthy beginning.  Students are stressed with schoolwork, relationships, and finances, ECT. The one or two classes of yoga that we attend a week are something to look forward to.
            My peers reacted to research question, with answers like, “ I am not surprised”,  “Isn’t that frustrating for people who are depressed, when doing a difficult pose, what if its challenging?”  We shouldn’t be surprised by yoga being a treatment for depression; it has been for a long time in other cultures, now in the West people are using yoga as a treatment.  They explained to me that when we view other cultures we see how calm they react, and we don’t see negativity at all.  “Life is a blessing”, is the attitude, and tone that is set.  A lot of cultures have been practicing yoga for thousands of years.  It can be a family tradition, young teens seeking direction, groups connecting together, and/or overcoming the mind.  As soon as we think about yoga, we think “relaxation”, and relaxation as said before is good for depressed patients, so another episode doesn’t reoccur. 
            Yoga being too challenging for depressed individuals, was another statement that was raised from a peer.  This makes complete sense because all relaxation is lost if challenges start to become a problem.  This is why there have been studies done, and proven that beginner levels of yoga work best for patients with depression.  It gives space for the patients to focus on their thinking, releasing the negativity, and not worry about any challenges.  Yoga being portrayed as “physical” in the West I can see why my peer would mention that.  The classes that you are meant to lose weight, and get fit in are not for depressed individuals.  Meditation and breathing exercises are ideal.
            I was happy with a “challenging response”, and an “I figured” response, because it gave me opportunity to think about what others may think about yoga as treatment for depression.  Culturally people may think of it being strange, because they focus on themselves all the time to get better as their treatment.  In other cultures in the west, medicine is more apt to be the “Go to”, and a natural healing is not always first priority. 
Yoga is used in different cultures as a treatment for depression, as well as in today’s society in the West.  It is safe to say that it is effective in treating depression, as long as yoga is not the only treatment for the patients.  Therapy and other natural healings like focusing on what foods are being eaten, as well as monitoring the tasks of every day life.  Yoga cannot be the only treatment for depression but it is a great method to start with.  I feel as if the mind is a powerful thing, and anyone can set himself or herself up to achieve anything. 
            The research is missing how depressed individuals feel, in different cultures.  Do they feel as if treatment worked doing yoga, and makes people focus on “Being.”  How can we find out what the depressed patients feel?  If yoga did work, at which point during the treatment did everything start to change.  It has been said that meditation, relaxation, and focusing is where people start to feel themselves as a person.  I personally would like to read in research at which point in the yoga did the depression go away?  Knowing that, people who are depressed could just focus on that individually, unless, it is different for everyone.  Yoga as treatment for depression is a treatment I see continuing to grow over time in the West.  In other cultures I do not see it growing as treatment because they do not pay much attention to it now.  If it does continue to grow, I hope medications slowly start to decrease, for the safety of the patients with illnesses.

Works Cited

Brown, R., & Gerbarg, P. (2005, August 30). Sudarshan kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: Part ii—clinical applications and guidelines. Retrieved from http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2005.11.711

(Brown & Gerbarg, 2005)

Campbell, D. (July, 17 2008). Yoga as a preventative and treatment for depression, anxiety, and stress. Retrieved from http://iayt.metapress.com/content/t7427823p2478255/

(Campbell, 2008)

CDC. Depression affects many americans at different levels. learn how you can work with health providers to treat and monitor depression.. (March , 31 2011). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdepression/

(CDC, 2011 )

Furnham, A., & Malik, R. (2013). Cross cultural beliefs about "depression". Retrieved from http://isp.sagepub.com/content/40/2/106.short

(Furnham & Malik, 2013)

 Harvard Health. (2009, April). Yoga for anxiety and depression. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2009/April/Yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression

(Harvard Health, 2009)

Louise, C. (March, 2011 09). Depression treatment options. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-treatment-options

(Louise, 2011)

Michalsen, A. (Dec, 2005 12). Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three-month intensive yoga program. Retrieved from http://www.yoga-vidya.de/fileadmin/yv/Yogatherapie/Artikel/StressreduktionYoga.pdf

(Michalsen, 2005)

Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc. (2007). Preventing recurrent depression: Long-term treatment for major depression disorder. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1911177/

(Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc, 2007)

Shapiro, D. (June, 2006 06). Yoga as a complementary treatment of depression: Effects of traits and moods on treatment outcome. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2007/798782/abs/

(Shapiro, 2006)
Weintraub, A. (2004). Yoga for depression. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=N1YtJizf9tYC&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=how does yoga help treat depression&ots=af3NWrxlsc&sig=BpM6q1va-VYzOsSAT0uH_RDwrCU

(Weintraub, 2004)

Woolery, A. (Mar/Apr, 2004). A yoga intervention for young adults with elevated symptoms of depression. Retrieved from http://www.modernhcp.com/INNO-PDFS/IMCJ-PDFS/BE8EAF15F08842A291DC88418F8F9BA5.ashx.pdf

(Woolery, 2004)

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