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Your healing zone:

Yoga for Depression

by Cormac Lennon


Yoga Psychology

Yoga Psychology is preventative-curative-promotive. Yoga Psychology is the bridge between the disciplines of Yoga and Psychology. Yoga Psychology is a branch of Science that aims to provide amicable adjustment and promotion of the self by the study and application of Yogic Methods and Models, principles and techniques.

It's a Science because its methods are scientific and can be verified. It aims for amicable adjustment - every day we face situations that call for adjustments within ourselves. If we cannot adjust to given situations, this leads to imbalance.

Promotion of self - this involves our quality of life - Yoga Psychology takes this level of quality to a higher level - we learn how to lessen the negative aspects and increase the positive aspects of our personality. A comparison of both negative and positive aspects determines the quality of our lives.

Yoga is both a Basic Science, which provides the theories and methods of attaining a balanced personality, and it is an Applied Science. This is the actual application of the methods provided. It aims to re establish balance; it provides tools in problem management.



Application of Yogic principles

According to Yoga, a person is healthy if he/she has:

  • The energy to cope with daily tasks.
  • A quiet and peaceful mind.
  • A sense of oneness.
This can be attained through control of mental modifications. The mental modifications which disturb the personality have their roots in "Avidja" (Ignorance) a false image of ourselves. This is the root of all our sorrows. Through Yoga we can develop:
  • Positive attitude: feelings and emotions.
  • Improve mental potential: intelligence, creativity and problem solving.
  • Balance with the physical system.
  • Combating social problems: from the individual to society. When Yogic principles are applied, it brings an end to conflict.
  • Promotion of self: leads us towards enlightenment.



The Methods

The first, principal method is INTROSPECTION - LOOKING WITHIN, Asana, (Positive), Pranayma (Breathing Techniques) are all sub divisions Of INTROSPECTION. While performing either the person is required to look within and observe the effects. Within these, there are 3 essential aspects.

  • Visualisation - non involvement of the senses
  • Awareness - from physical to mental (this leads to a separation from the physical and mental bodies).
  • Becoming a Witness - a direct result of the two previous.

Raja Yoga (Royal Yoga) is the most systematic and applicable of all Yoga forms. It connects with the power within. It is purely scientific and has no connection with cultural or religious frameworks. Also known as Ashtanga Yoga (8 Limbs) these 8 limbs are divided into 2 parts, the first being external and the second internal.

  • Yam + Niyam personal and social conduct (External)
  • Asana + Prenajar posture and breathing techniques (External)
  • Pranayama + Dharana sensory withdrawal and concentration (Internal)
  • Dhyana + Samadhi - one pointedness and meditation (Internal)

Astanga Yoga is a technique for the evolution of the self.

In layman terms, Yoga is a useful practice that can bring us back to a balanced state, to a state of being where we can cope with daily living, where we are given tools that will enable us to deal with problems such as depression. Almost everybody will or has experienced depression at some stage of their life. It's not being able to overcome this depression that leads to deeper depression, and once you are caught in a state of deep clinical depression, it may seem difficult or even impossible to get out. The famous M avad Gita," a holy book in India, begins with "Yoga of Depression." Aijuna, a warrior~rgince, slumps down into his chariot filled with anguish and becomes depressed. Lord Krishna proceeds to expound to Muna the method to lift his spirit and urges him to fulfill his duties. It can be the same in our presentday situation. We can only begin on the path of Yoga from where we are now, and if that is in a depressed state, then so be it. Our weaknesses are truly our strengths.

Yoga has been misunderstood here in the West. It has nothing to do with religion or culture. It is a Science, and it is applicable to all regardless of age, race or creed. It is the "art of living." It is also more than just posture and breathing exercises, it is away of being, it gives us discipline in our lives. If a river has no banks, its water will be dissipated on both sides, and it will never reach its destination of the sea. So, too, it is with ourselves. Yoga can be the banks of our lives, guiding us to reach our own destination, whatever that may be.

The Yogic Model for living is D.A.I.L.Y. This stands for:

  • Diet
  • Attitude
  • Life-style
  • Yoga Practice

This Yogic Model is applicable to all states of being.

So, from this Model, the first aspect to look at is:

DIET: We are what we eat literally; the body takes what it needs from our food, expels what it doesn't need and turns the rest back into itself. The body is constantly renewing itself through this means, so if we have a bad diet, it will manifest itself in the body. This, in turn, will affect our mental attitude and indeed, affects the whole person.

ATTITUDE: How we think and feel about ourselves. Just by changing our attitudes, we can change our lives. Nothing is achieved is life without concentration and a proper attitude. If we feel that we can overcome our problems, then that attitude, if maintained, will lead us to achieving our goals. This aspect of the Yogic Model cannot be underestimated.

LIFE STYLE Look around you, look at your enviromnent your house/flat the people you associate with. These are all reflections on you and your lifestyle. What you do and who you do it with says a lot about who we are and what style of life we have. The first 2 steps of Raja Yoga give us guidelines which will improve our life styles. (Yam and Niyom) each have 5 parts. These are Yama Social Conduct the starting point of Yoga.

  • Ahimsa non violence, either in thought, word or deed, non violence towards all living creatures. 1 have noticed in myself on days when I'm not feeling the best, 1 tend to be cynical towards people around me. 1 feel that 1 can see their faults, and nothing seems right.
  • Asteya non covetousness
  • Bhramacharya control of sexual desires (not abstinence)
  • Aparigraha a decent day's work for a decent day's pay. Not looking for more than we deserve.

Nijama covers personal conduct: including personal hygiene, being able to bear insult, self study and devotion to a higher force.

Finally, yogic practices give us the initial boost to carry us forward.

Basically there are two kinds of mental disorders: anxiety and depressive disorders. Both need separate practices. The Central Nervous System is divided into 2 Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic. In anxiety disorders, the Sympathetic System is dominant the body is in almost constant stress. The Yogic approach to this disorder is calming and cooling practices and parasympathetic arousal. In Depressive Disorder, sympathetic arousal is applied and dynamic practices. Both these approaches lead to balance and greater harmony.

Practices for depression include Sura Namaskara, Dynamic postures, backbends, standing and twisting; breathing techniques include Bhastrika, Kapalbati and abdominal breathing.

Practices for anxiety include Pawanmuktasana, Sura Namaskara, Shashankasana, Bhijangasana, Halasana and Shawasana and breathing techniques include Nadi Shodhana, Kapalbati, Bhastrika, Bhamari and Yoga Nidra.

Asana or posture: These have a direct effect on the Endocrine System and the Central Nervous System, balancing and toning both This in turn has an effect on the emotions. It leads to mental and emotional equanimity, practiced with awareness it relieves stress and worry and it also leads to freedom of the personality. Asana relaxes the body, making it light and supple. We're left feeling calm and confident, and we become masters of our own bodies. Flexibility of body leads to a flexible mind, rigidity of body is a rigid mind.

Prasnayama (Breathing Techniques) "Life is the period between 1 breath and the next. A person who only Y2breathes only Y2lives. He who breathes correctly acquires control of the whole being. " Breath is the key link between body and mind. It is intimately connected with every cell in our body. To establish regular rhythmic patterns breaks down negative patterns. It increases absorption of Prana (Life Force), boosting the Immune System and overall well being. It influences the Nervous System in a positive way.



How much do sessions cost and where can I find out more?

For more information email the Galireary Yoga and Meditation Centre in Cork or call Cormac Lennon 01-83631601 or 086 3504932. An average cost of a single Yoga Class is 10 to 15 Euros, a course of 8 weeks costs 80 to 100 Euros. It depends on the Centre/Teacher. Individual tuition is more expensive, and costs vary between 35 and 60 Euros per 1 1/2hour sessions. A private group can be facilitated and probably works out cheaper, e.g. a group of 5 to 10 for a one and a half hour class costs about 75 Euros. Make sure the teacher has a recognised qualification: ask them for their qualifications and experience. Dietary advice can be sought from a number of souces. Cormac Lennon runs classes at St Kevin's community hall, Bloomfield avenue SCR and cost 80 euros for eight lessons