AnxietyAnxiety is one of your body’s natural responses to stress. It is a part of your internal alarm system that protects you from potential harm. This alarm system is made up of your brain and nervous system. It has existed from the earliest days of humanity. Through neuroception our body assesses the threat and sets off alarms allowing for quick action. This reaction is the process called ‘fight-flight-or-freeze’. Anxiety is the ‘flight’ response.
Once upon a time the threat was obvious in the form of larger animals or imminent danger. As humans have evolved, the anxieties now revolve around life, work, health, and fear of the unknown. Your past and current life experiences impact the relationship your nervous system has with a sense of safety and threat. Our experiences can lead to a dysregulated nervous system causing an overactive internal alarm system, commonly known as ‘anxiety’.
Our nervous system is unable to differentiate between imminent and perceived threat, therefore you can have similar reactions to a large animal chasing behind you and a thought of an upcoming job interview.
Yoga can help here.
Yoga helps develop awareness of your internal processes. You come to discover what stimulus sets off your alarm system and what the resulting alarms are. You start to understand how this alarm system came to be, how it may have once worked for you, and where it is not working for you now. Overtime and practice, Yoga allows you to notice and understand the minute impulses of the nervous system rather than the louder reactions of the alarm system which we are more accustomed to notice.
The experience of anxiety in the body is not comfortable. It is not easy. Yoga slowly begins to regulate the body’s response to perceived stress. By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga modulates our stress response systems. This decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. Over time, it translates into our mind, slowing our thoughts, making each less reactive. Through yoga we shift our body’s ‘alarm system’ towards greater regulation and wellness.
Yoga helps build tolerance and capacity for discomfort and comfort alike. It offers a tool to cope and a path towards more balance and calm. Yoga directly works with the nervous system supporting it to create a new relationship with a sense of safety within you.
DepressionDepression (numbing out) is one of your body’s natural responses to stress. It is a part of your internal alarm system that protects you from potential harm. This alarm system is made up of your brain and nervous system. It has existed from the earliest days of humanity. Through neuroception our body assesses the threat and sets off alarms allowing for survival. This reaction is the process called ‘fight-flight-or-freeze’. Depression is the ‘freeze’ response.
You might be thinking how the ‘freeze’ response would help you survive? It is a primal survival response. Fold into immobility. Play dead. A great last ditch effort when ‘fight-or-flight’ won’t work. Imagine a cat playing with a mouse it has caught. If the mouse plays dead, the cat quickly loses interest and stops paying attention. The ‘numbed out’ mouse comes back online and makes a run for it. Life saved, thanks to the nervous system’s assessment of threat and responding by becoming immobile, playing dead.
Humans are animals too. Our threat response is the same. When the nervous system assesses that running or fighting will not result in survival, it uses the ‘freeze’ response, numbing us. It doesn’t ask our permission before doing so, it simply does so to support our survival in that moment. The problem is, unlike the mouse the comes back online and runs, as humans our thoughts and feelings continue to be perceived as a threat by the nervous system and we get stuck in a loop.
Yoga can help here.
Yoga, with a therapist that is trained in neuroscience and therapy, supports your nervous system to come back online in a safe environment. Yoga helps to slowly develop tolerance and capacity to feel again. It offers you the chance to understand your internal processes, the relationship your nervous system has with its environment, with a sense of safety and with a sense of connection. Through Yoga for Depression you become aware of the ‘loop’ and develop curiosity of how it works. With this understanding you are empowered for change.
To break the ‘loop’ of depression, two key components are needed, self-empathy and self-compassion. The practice of yoga offers time and space to develop the skill of empathy and a heart of compassion. With this, you can change your relationship with depression and decrease its impact on your life and wellbeing.