Yoga and SAD
Quelling Seasonal Affective Disorder with Yoga
And so, it begins, shorter days, cooler nights, crisper air, and seasonal depression. The turn of the Autumn solstice can be a challenging time for all of us. The loss of light and fleeting days plays tricks on our psyches, making a significant portion of the population feel lethargic and unmotivated. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real medical condition that effects about 3% of the Canadian population between the ages of 30-60. (Canada.com) Often, those who develop SAD also experience symptoms and struggle with PMS. When we put the evidence together, it comes down to this; much of our health is about hormonal balance as anything else.
Let’s look at this in a positive light. Light being the partnership we need to cultivate for better, healthier selves. Sadness and despair, or more commonly known as ‘the winter blues’ may indicate that your hormone production is underperforming. The nerve centres in the brain control our daily moods and rhythms that are stimulated by the amount of natural light that enters our eyes. During the night and in periods of reduced light, like winter months, a gland in the brain produces a hormone called melatonin, which makes you feel drowsy.
Serotonin is another chemical produced in the brain that helps to regulate mood and behaviour. Sunlight seems to have an increased effect on our serotonin levels. Therefore, the shorter days and longer nights associated with the fall and winter season may cause decreased levels of serotonin.
During the night and in periods of reduced light, like winter months, a gland in the brain produces a hormone called melatonin, which makes you feel drowsy
Serotonin is the molecule of willpower. With the onset of decreased serotonin activity, one might experience difficulty finishing tasks, feeling low, or getting annoyed more easily. So, the question begs: How do we boost our serotonin production naturally? It all comes back to that four-letter word, Y-O-G-A!
The stress response itself increases the likelihood of anxious thoughts that further exacerbates our stress levels. Yoga is a multi-faceted discipline that works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful.
It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga’s greatest neurobiological benefits.
Studies are proving that a comprehensive yoga program that include asana (poses), pranayama (breath), and mantra (meditation), can increase levels of serotonin reducing our winter blues, SAD, and PMS.
Yoga is a multi-faceted discipline that works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful
The asana practice challenges you in a physical and mental way, and learning to manage under any stressful circumstance with yogic techniques can stimulate serotonin levels. By physically challenging your body, breathing deeply and slowly, clearing your head of anxious thoughts, and focusing on the present, your yoga practice is the most natural process of working with our stressors.
The fact is, depression of any kind is usually not something that you can just snap out of, or fix with willpower. However, over time with dedication, commitment, and continuous efforts, the neurological brain will begin to respond to the stimulation your yoga can provide the body, mind, and soul. When we practise certain poses to open and expand the chest, giving us the ability to breath deeper, increase the amount of oxygen to the brain, helping us remain in the present moment, we can more successfully combat the SAD, PMS and depressed feelings. Namaste