Manage Anxiety, Stress and Depression through Yoga

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Due to changes in lifestyle anxiety, stress and depression are quite common now days.

What is anxiety, stress and depression? Although these are mental disorders, they differ from each other. Briefly -

1. Anxiety arises from fear of loss of material objects or a person. It is also caused by excessive worrying and negative thinking.

It symptoms are loss of appetite, moderate sleep disturbance, palpitation, perspiration tremors and rapid breathing.

2. Stress arises when one feels pressurized, struggles to fulfill wishes and desires, inability to cope with a situation, loss of concentration and accuracy in work, sleep and appetite are disturbed.

It symptoms are lethargy, tremors, sweating, tiredness, weakness.

3. Depression arises when there exists a feeling of helplessness and loss of hope in life. It comes after anxiety and stress. It results in us blaming others without reflecting to see where we are at fault and suicidal tendencies. We lose interest in any activity, wish to stay alone and avoid social interaction. When depressed we lose confidence and cry repeatedly.

Its symptoms are lack of sleep and appetite.

What type of people suffer from anxiety, stress and depression?

It could be a whole range of people. Sportsmen & the general audience spectators watching the play, women, office goers, students, and different professionals like doctors, advocates and engineers do experience these symptoms sometimes in their life. Also people who are highly active people in their fields mostly suffers from above mental disorders.

How do these problems affect your work and family life?

All of us need to maintain a balance in what we do and a work-life balance. Failure to do so shall result in anxiety, stress and depression. Actions taken in such a state of mind could result in taking wrong decisions which could lead to financial loss and disturbances in family life.

Can Yoga help in managing stress?

Yoga is the best way to manage such mental health disorders. It's holistic approach helps eradicate such disorders from the root. This is not to say that alternative therapies available like Ayurveda, diet, medications and naturopathy do not work. They have their limitations however.

Here are a few tips to manage anxiety/stress/depression.

1. Preparatory steps

Sit in lotus pose, or easy crossed legged pose on the floor or in a chair by keeping spine & neck straight & facial muscle relaxed. Eyes should be closed. Observe your normal breathe.

Yoga practices

1. Breath Awareness – 10 -20 cycles
Closed your eyes with awareness of eyelashes, eyelids and eyeballs.
Ensure complete closure of eyes & relax.
Then concentrate on normal breath and watch it as it is going on, for 5 cycles.
Try to feel the flow & the touch of air inside the nostrils.
Feel the coolness of air while inhaling & warmness of air while exhaling for 5 respiratory cycles.

2. Slow & Conscious Deep Breathing
After breath awareness, progress further with conscious.
Deep inhalation & exhalation with awareness of movement of Chest & abdominal part. Try to follow the air entering from the nostril going through the throat then feel the movement of chest, the way it comes out which is then followed by the abdominal part which also bulges up. Then watch consciously the reverse movements of the abdomen & chest going inside respectively while exhalation.
Please remember, breathe very slowly so that there should be no sound from the nostrils during inhalation and exhalation.
One breath cycle may take 10 to 15 seconds approximately. (Inhale fully up to the collar bones and exhales completely)

3. Anulom Vilom - 10 to 20 rounds
This is nadi shuddhi technique of Hatha-yoga. Commonly it is also known as Anulom- vilom pranayama though it is not among 8 types of hathayoga pranayamas. By doing this one feels calm and quiet. It also increases focus.

How to do?

Close the right nostril & inhale deeply from the left nostril. Close the left nostril and exhale slowly from the right nostril.

Now inhale from the right nostril, close it and exhale very slowly from the left nostril. This is one round of Anulom vilom pranayama.

Please remember exhalation should be longer (in time) than the inhalation. Beginner may observe ratio 1:2 for inhalation and exhalation.

4. Bhramari Pranayama - 10 to 20 rounds
In this type of pranayama inhalation is done with both the nostrils. During the exhalation humming sound is produced with closed mouth.

5. Omkar recitation - 10 to 20 rounds
Loud but low pitch Omkar chanting increases peace & strength of mind.
Because vagus nerve is connected to vocal cords they get toned up. The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system. It is largely responsible for the mind-body connection & has far reaching effect for all your major organs of the body.

How to chant “OM”?

Inhale deeply & while exhaling initiate chanting by saying ‘O’ (with the lips open) and them ‘Ma’ (by closing lips) with full awareness of body & breath coordination.

Visualize & chant in any of following ways……& try to get involved with its vibrations.
- OMmmOMmmOMmm...
- OMmmmmOMmmmmOMmmmm...
- OMmmmmmmmOMmmmmmmmOMmmmmmmm...

6. Mantra Chanting 10 to 20 rounds
It could be Gayatri mantra or any other mantra chanting which would create great peace and make your mind calm.
Conclude the session by offering gratitude to the Lord. Be silent & observe your experience and feeling for 5 to 10 Min. Open eyes with awareness of eyelashes, eyelid & eyeball.
Benefits of the above are -
One, it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps to calm down.
Two, it enhances your strength & vitality of body & mind.
Three, it connects mind & body through ultimate source of life i.e. breathe.
Four, it strengthens your mind to cope with any stressful situation in the life.
Five, the more slowly you breathe in and out the more serenity and stillness you will feel.

It is said that slower the breathing rate more is the life span. In support of this the following chart is given to show connection between breathing rate & the life span of some of the animals.

Animal Breathing rate,  breaths/min Life span,  years
Tortoise 4 150
Whale 6 111
Elephant 4-5 (lying down)

70 -100

Horse 8-15 50
Monkeys 32 18-23
Dogs 20-30 10-20

Lastly, do Shavasan. Lie down in supine posture & keep relaxed all parts of body. Surrender yourself completely to mother earth with awareness.

Finally, experience enjoy and relax.

Editor - from personal experience suggest that a good way to manage anxiety is to be detached to the cause of anxiety. If you are not getting sleep then keep on chanting till you get sleep. When feeling depressed do things that make you happy, recall events that enhance your feeling of self-worth. Lastly, sit and meditate in silence. When every am confused open any page of the Holy Gita. Sooner than later the confusion has gone, I find answers.

Author is B.A.M.S & done Post Graduate Diploma in Yoga Shastra. She is working with Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute, Mumbai as Public Relation Officer & Medical Consultant since last 7 years. She is also attached with National & International institute of Yoga. In Mumbai she is working with Sanskrit Peetham Yoga department of Somaiya College, Vidyavihar and Yoga Sadhana Mandir, Nerul  as a visiting faculty for teaching Yoga subjects.

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