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Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga & its Mental Health Benefits

There are many thought leaders who have pressed the ever so present 2nd pandemic which is occurring currently – mental health crisis. It is unlikely to fully grasp whether it was the COVID-19 pandemic that precipitated mental health issues or if this crisis was present prior but just ignored.
Increasingly, primary care physicians are taking on the role of psychiatrists due to shortages of psychiatrists and psychologists. An additional barrier to patient access to needed resources is also financial access issues. Imagine coming to a point of recognizing that you need help yet discovering that so many health providers do not accept insurance. This is certainly not their fault but a sign of the increasing burden and bureaucracy of our health care system.
Alternative options are increasingly being explored to help individuals desperately looking for help such as increased funding for social workers, job-related mental health campaigns, and digital community support groups.
One significant tool that I recommend in helping to address mental health – is starting ashtanga vinyasa yoga. Yoga mastermind, Saga Patanjali, whom many consider having elevated the status of yoga, particularly into an eight-limbed model called Ashtanga yoga, placed an emphasis on the connection of yoga to the mind. Increasing researchers are discovering mental health benefits of ashtanga vinyasa yoga.
There are tremendous lifestyle benefits that can be achieved, ideally, with instruction by a trusted yoga teacher or by taking a vinyasa class. However, if budget is a consideration, there are certainly many free tutorial options that can be found online. Whether you suffer from mental health issues or not, yoga-based practices offer a tremendous therapeutic approach to many chronic conditions and help improve overall wellness.
The first step is commitment, committing to yourself that you want and deserve a better existence. You deserve happiness and wellness!

Benefits that ashtanga vinyasa yoga has on addressing mental health and improving overall wellness:

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga – Targets Depression

A recent study in 2021 found that yoga can be a third therapy arm for the treatment of depression. Often the clinical management of major depressive disorder is psychotherapy and medication management such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), etc.
Well in this study, researchers observed 83 patients over 3 months. They would do vigorous ashtanga vinyasa yoga three times a week, compared to a control group for comparison. Their findings showed that the additive yoga arm to therapy showed a reduction in depressive symptoms within the first 6 weeks and lower remission. This showed that ashtanga vinyasa yoga can indeed influence our nervous system.
Major depressive disorder also has an impact on our body’s way of processing stress by perpetuating a cycle of inflammation. Different researchers from the study above discovered a few years ago that participants in their study who participated in yoga both experienced a significant decrease in reported depression but also a significant decrease in inflammatory markers from blood samples they submitted. It was shown that participants had a lower cortisol level, and increased sirtuin and telomerase activity. Cortisol is a stress hormone while sirtuin and telomerase are like enzymes that help repair our DNA when damaged and help decrease oxidative stress.
Similarly, another study found that participation in yoga showed a decrease in one out of three inflammatory markers measured. 84 participants enrolled in this trial for 10 weeks and in order to be eligible one had to have elevated depression symptoms, be on current antidepressant medication, and had a current or recent major depressive episode. People who were in the study group that completed yoga had a decrease in depressive symptoms and a decrease in IL-6 (an inflammatory marker).
So when is the best time to do yoga, particularly if suffering from depression? The Morning. Also, I recommend specifically a focus on sun salutations sequences as this has one of the most benefits for decreasing the risk of depression.
Below is a video you can check out for proper technique.

Targets Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are unfortunately becoming increasingly chronic conditions for people. Daily anxiety causes a decrease in the quality of life of a person and can damage relationships whether at work or at home. Coping with anxiety can be challenging, and like major depressive disorder, is often treated with psychotherapy and medication management.
But what if yoga or an alternative therapy could be added? Well, there have been several investigations that examined breathing exercises, heart rate, and sequences during ashtanga vinyasa yoga to see if it had a positive impact on those who suffer from anxiety.
There have been over 25 clinical trials that have found that ashtanga vinyasa yoga showed an improvement in the signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety. People also reported an increased sense of hopefulness and purpose. Many of these trials relied on self-reported questionnaires, inflammatory biomarkers (like cortisol), or a combination of both to measure responses after dedicated yoga classes.
A particular yoga pose that I recommend if you are dealing with work stress is the moon salutation as it helps calm the mind and rebalances you by helping you release the tensions from the day. Below is a video demonstration of the proper technique.

So there clearly is more to ashtanga vinyasa yoga than just exercise!

Check out our post about the best teas for digestion and the many health benefits of green tea shots!

Dr. Tyrrell Jenkins

Hi, I'm Dr. TJ

Health Coach + Experienced Physician

Dr. Tyrrell Jenkins, affectionately known as Dr. TJ, has practiced medicine in 4 areas, including outpatient primary care, urgent care, hospital medicine, and the intensive care unit, which are all unique and have given him a significant breath of clinical experience that many physicians do not possess. This has allowed him to assess and manage the continuum of diseases.


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