LifeForce Yoga for Body, for Mind, for your Spirit

yoga for depression

Any regular yoga practitioner knows that yoga has an amazing mood-lifting effect. No one is more expert at that than Yoga Spirit online presenter Amy Weintraub, the founder of LifeForce Yoga. Struggling with depression herself, Amy found yoga more helpful in managing her condition than therapy and drugs, and she developed LifeForce Yoga to help other people who struggling with stress, anxiety or depression.

Amy recently was interviewed by the Tuscon Green Times. In the following excerpts, she sums up the essence of yoga for depression and and offers practical advice for managing moods.

“The body is always present. The mind is a time traveler. So when we’re practicing in a way that pays attention to sensations and breath, we’re cultivating that present moment awareness,” Weintraub says. “In the present awareness, there is no sadness, grief, or trauma in that moment. In that moment, we are whole and yoga gives us a cumulative experience of moments of wholeness, moments of contentment, and moments of peace.”

Weintraub focuses on helping practioners become more present and aware of their bodies, which has measurable neurological affects. She says yoga can decrease levels of cortisol, the stress hormone which people who suffer from anxiety or PTSD have too much of, while at the same time raising the levels of hormones like prolactin and oxyconsin, which make you feel good.

In addition to helping practitioners adjust hormone levels, yoga also helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and blood pressure, calming you down. For most people, the parasympathetic nervous system is out of their immediate control, but you can learn to consciously switch it on through deep breathing and relaxation of the muscles. Weintraub also says that yoga creates higher heart rate variability (HRV); that is, yoga allows for greater diversity in the time between heartbeats. This allows the heart rate to pick up and slow down in a more natural way, without causing undue stress or anxiety.

Weintraub says the biggest component of LifeForce yoga is breath control, or Pranayama. “The postures themselves are not magic positions,” she writes in her book. “It is your breathing that gives them the power to heal.” Accordingly, she likes to focus on postures like backbends, which open the chest and encourage deep breathing. The goal is to get oxygen to the brain, which increases the presence of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin in the body, and helps stabilize moods. “Yoga will show you that you are so much more than the challenges life brings you,” Weintraub says. “You are so much more than the negative beliefs you may have about yourself or the world. You are so much more than your mood. Yes, a negative mood or stress may visit but yoga teaches us we’re so much more than that.”