Anxiety and depression in isolation.
The lockdown of our communities during the Covid-19 Pandemic can be particularly difficult for those who suffer from symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. The loss of social connection, structure and routine and physical outlets can worsen the symptoms for those already struggling with these conditions or precipitate the onset of them in those who may have never experienced them in the past. To help keep this at bay maintaining a regular yoga practice is more important than ever.
Social isolation is a health risk.
Social isolation can have as big an impact on our health as smoking or obesity and increases the risk of premature death. Research has also demonstrated links between isolation and depression, poor sleep, cognitive decline and even impaired immunity.
Exercise withdrawal can induce depression.
Even for those who haven't previously experienced depression or anxiety, the cessation of their usual physical activity can precipitate the onset of symptoms. Research from the University of Adelaide has shown that for regular exercisers it can take just three days of inactivity for symptoms of depression to present. These findings confirmed an earlier review that found exercise withdrawal has negative consequences for mental health.
Active people are happier people.Being active, not just exercising, is linked to happiness. A study of over ten thousand people found that just standing up and moving around is a predictor of happiness.
Yoga improves symptoms of anxiety and depression.
A group of people with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) participated in a clinical trial assessing different 'doses' of yoga. The high dose group took three 90 minute yoga classes per week with four 30 minute homework sessions per week for twelve weeks while the low dose group did two 90 minute classes and three 30 minute homework sessions per week. After twelve weeks both groups had "reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety and increased feelings of positivity".
The social bonds of yoga.
While yoga itself has an effect on the physical and emotional wellbeing of the practitioner, yoga also has a positive impact on the feeling of connection and trust that a group experience when practicing together. Research shows that the steepness of a hill is judged to be less difficult when you are walking up the incline with a friend than when you walk it alone. Things just feel easier when we do them together.
The power of synchronised movement.
Synchronised movement has a powerful effect on groups. Whether it is dancing to the same steps (think Nutbush CIty Limits), marching on parade or doing a group yoga class the effect is unifying. This effect has been shown to increase cooperation and other prosocial behaviours (things like helping, donating and sharing) from those who participate in synchronised activity such as yoga. This comes about through the feeling of one-ness that we experience when we move in unison with others.
But my yoga studio is closed!
While it isn't perfect, a home practice can offer opportunities (reduced commute time) and an opportunity to connect with yourself and with your studio and maybe even include your family. Or maybe not if you live in my house.... The are a lot of benefits including:
Keeping your activity levels up.
Engaging in a home practice during a difficult time can certainly help keep your activity levels up. As well as the physical benefits there are upsides to creating space for yourself, allocating time to engage in an activity designed to look after your wellbeing.
Is online yoga a viable alternative?
While studios are closed (hopefully not for much longer!) there are a wealth of options for keeping up your practice up while in isolation. From youtube videos to yoga apps there are many options for a wide variety of practices.
YOME has a huge array of videos embracing many different yoga styles from Bikram to Power Yoga. Yoga with Adriene is a youtube powerhouse and has great beginner videos and also offers short practices and there are a dizzying array of apps available. Down Dog is offering totally free access to their app until July 1st 2020 (no credit card required!).
But if you want to get the benefits of your yoga practice on your health and wellbeing AND you want to get the social and emotional benefits of practicing with others try looking into virtual classes. Check to see if your local studio is offering classes via Zoom or other group platforms and join them. Or search online using an app such as MindBody to see if you can schedule a virtual class with another studio. Instagram Live has a multitude of classes and options to try. (*Zoom yoga class Image thanks to Instagram).
No it's not the same as going to the studio, but it is a way to connect, to get your workout in and reach out to others in the same boat. Plus, it's a lot harder to give up halfway through a class when you have a real life teacher encouraging you and your regular fellow classmates practicing alongside you.
Wishing everyone health and happiness until we can get back to a studio!
PS If you want to set up a hot room at home for your Hot Yoga practice check out my blog here.