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Flax Sesame Crackers 

Flax Sesame Crackers are a healthy light wheat cracker with good quantity of sesame seeds and flax seeds. Oats used in the dish are rich in antioxidants, lowers cholesterol, improves blood sugar. Flax seeds are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids reduces inflammation and…

YVNites honored at KKSU 

In 12th Convocation of Kavi Kulguru Kalidas Sanskrit University, Ramtek on March 6, 2024, YVN trained teacher (33rd YTTC Dadar), Smt Vanita Mugdam felicitated with gold medal for standing highest in M. A. in Yogashastra through open and distance education (ODL) by scoring 86.5 %…

YVN to conclude Golden Jubilee Celebrations 

Yoga Vidya Niketan, Member Institute, Indian Yoga Association is celebrating its Golden Jubilee Year from March 2023 to April 2024. Concluding function of Golden Jubilee Year Celebration will be held on April 9, 2024, in between 4pm to 7pm, at Yoga Bhavan, the own structure…

YVN organises events to promote Yoga 

Annual Exhibition Yoga Vidya Niketan, Member Institute of Indian Yoga Association held one day program on Annual Exhibition cum lectures on January 14, 2024 at Yoga Bhavan, Vashi, Navi Mumbai. After floral salute to statue of Swami Kuvalayanand and founder of YVN late Yogacharya Padmashri…

J&K UTCC announces Scholarship Certification Program 

The Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory Chapter Committee in association with Swaraj Yoga Institute announced a scholarship certification program from various categories, border areas and BPL background. The announcement was made under the chairmanship of Dr Shreyansh Jain and Shri Anil Swaraj, Founder, Swaraj Yoga…

Chandigarh SCC organizes Yoga Camp 

Chandigarh State Chapter of Indian Yoga Association organized 5 Days Yoga Camp for a healthy Lifestyle at Government College of Commerce and Business Administration (GCCBA Chandigarh, a constituent college of the Panjab University), Sector 50, Chandigarh from February 26 – March 1, 2024. This boot…

Karnataka SCC conducts GBM at Art of Living Ashram 

Karnataka State Chapter Committee of the Indian Yoga Association organised its General Body Meeting on January 28, 2024 with the blessings of Gurudev Shri Shri Ravishankar, Chairman, Indian Yoga Association at the Art of Living International Center, Bengaluru. The event was attended by the members…

Chandigarh SCC celebrates Republic Day at Consulate General of India, Canada 

Glimpses of the Republic Day celebrations by Shri Ajit Handa, Chairperson, Chandigarh State Chapter Committee at Consulate General of India, Vancouver. He was on a vacation in Canada with is daughter.

SAHS and IYA celebrates International Mind Body Wellness Day 

The NSS unit, School of Allied Health Sciences, Salem, Vinayaka Mission’s Research Foundation (DU) in collaboration with Indian Yoga association celebrated International Mind Body Wellness Day on January 3. On the occasion an awareness programme was held at the Skill Lab Auditorium. Prof.Dr.B.Sendilkumar, Director, SAHS,…

Shree Kala Yoga organises Yoga Trainer Camp 

Shree Kala Yoga, Associate Centre, Indian Yoga Association in along with Gujarat State Yog Board organised Yog Trainer Camp in Gandhidham. As many as 35 trainee attended the 45 days long training camp that commenced on December 1, 2023. The camp culminated on January 16,…



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08 Apr 2024

Yogavani

Yogic Perspectives on Depression
Editorial

Yogic Perspectives on Depression 

I was dumbstruck when Sumathi (name changed for privacy) walked into my office one day and said, “Doctor, Yoga is the best antidepressant ever created”!

A truly wonderful and sincere ‘from-the-heart’ statement from a lady, who had suffered depression for more than a decade, and had been driven to despair, by her condition.

I still remember her coming to my office a few years ago with her husband and son who is a medical doctor. She was in terrible emotional and mental agony. Her husband a school headmaster had reached his limits too. She broke down numerous times during the hour long consultation and I cannot forget her prayer that, “All I want is, to be able to worship my God without pain and suffering”. Her condition was so bad that she could not even motivate herself to do her daily Puja and had lost all interest in daily activities.

And, here today, she was right in front of me making this lovely statement about the reality of Yoga being a boon for psycho-somatic health. She has become an advocate of Yoga for womanhood.

So many others who found themselves in the same boat as her have today come out of their despair through her example of Yoga being the best antidepressant indeed.

Yoga: A Spiritual Science

Yoga is a spiritual science for the integrated and holistic development of our physical, emotional, mental and moral-spiritual aspects of being. The philosophy of Yoga is practical and applicable in our day-to-day living. Yoga has been documented to normalise psycho-physiological function and recent advances in the field of research have shown that it has sound scientific basis.

Yoga is first and foremost a moksha shastra meant to facilitate the individual to attain the final freedom, liberation or emancipation. One of the important by-products of the Yogic way of living is attainment of health and well being. This is brought about by right-use-ness of the body, emotions and mind with awareness and consciousness. This must be understood to be as healthy a dynamic state that may be attained in spite of the individual’s sabija karma that manifests as their genetic predispositions and the environment into which they are born. Yoga also helps maintain and sustain this dynamic positive state of health after it has been attained through disciplined self effort.

This qualitative aspect of health is something that Yoga and Indian systems of medicine have considered important for thousands of years. The definition of asana given in the Yoga Sutra as sthira sukham implies this state of steady well being at all levels of existence (sthira sukham asanam- Yoga Darshan 2:46). Patanjali also tells us that through the practice of asana we can attain a state that is beyond dualities leading to a calm and serene state of well being (tato dvandvanabhighata- Yoga Darshan 2: 48).

Yoga understands health and well being as a dynamic continuum of human nature and not a mere ‘state’ to be attained and maintained. The lowest point on the continuum with the lowest speed of vibration is that of death whereas the highest point with the highest vibration is that of immortality. In between these two extremes lie the states of normal health and disease. For many, their state of health is defined as that ‘state’ in which they are able to function without hindrance whereas in reality, health is part of our evolutionary process towards Divinity. The lowest point on the dynamic health continuum with lowest speed of vibration may be equated with lowest forms of life and mineral matter while the highest point with highest speed of vibration may be equated with Divinity.

Qualities of Mental Health

Yoga not only considers physical health but also more importantly mental health. Qualities of a mentally healthy person (stitha prajna) are enumerated in the Bhagavad Gita as follows:

  • Beyond the animal tendencies of passion, fear and anger (veeta raga bhaya krodhah-BG 2.56)
  • Devoid of possessiveness and egoism (nirmamo nirahamkarah- BG -2.7)
  • Firm in understanding and un-bewildered (sthirabuddhir asammudhah-BG – 5.20)
  • Engaged in doing good for the benefit of all creatures (sarva bhutahiteratah- BG 5.25)
  • Friendly and compassionate to all beings ( maitrah karuna eva ca- BG 12.13)
  • Pure hearted and skilful without expectation (anapekshah sucir daksah- BG 12.16)

The central theme of Yoga is the golden mean, finding the middle path, a constant search for moderation and a harmonious homoeostatic balance. Yoga is the “unitive impulse” of life, which always seeks to unite diverse streams into a single powerful force. Proper practice produces an inner balance of mind that remains stable and serene even in the midst of chaos. This ancient science shows its adherents a clear path to the “eye of the storm” and ensures a stability that endures within, even as the cyclone rages externally.
Maharishi Patanjali tells us that we can gain unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy and satisfaction by practicing contentment (santoshat anuttamah sukhalabhah- Yoga Darshan 2: 42). This link is quite apparent once we think about it, but not too many associate the need for contentment in their greed for anything and everything in this material world.

Yogic Perspective of Depression
According to the Yoga Darshan codified by Maharishi Patanjali, depression or rather daurmanasya is one of the four vikshepa sahabhuvah that are the manifestations that accompany the obstacles to yoga sadhana, the nava antaraya. The other sahabhuvah are duhkha or suffering, angamejayatva or tremors and shvasaprasvasa or irregular respiration. (duhkhadaurmanasya angamejayatva shvasaprasvasa vikshepasahabhuvah Yoga Darshan -1:31). When we analyze this sutra deeply we find that they are very true reflections of our inner state.

Duhkha or painful suffering at the physical, emotional and mental level can drive us to despair. Suffering is an excellent trick our mind plays as very few can overcome the ‘moment’ of suffering. Very few are capable of realizing what is really happening in the process of their evolutionary journey. The moment ‘suffering’ is felt, most people give up, and the lower mind survives to fight another day.

Daurmanasya refers to dejection and despair. We must remember that depression is not just in the mind but has many physical aspects too. A state of depression is another tool by which the lower mind tries to halt the spiritual progress of a sadhaka. However we must realise that the greatest teachings are often given at moments of great despair. The art and science of Yoga understands that this may be the best ‘teachable’ moment and hence we find the highest teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana coming at this point.

Our Guru Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj used to say, “A nervous breakdown is actually an opportunity for a spiritual breakthrough if we can realise the positive implications in our moment of despair and dejection”. The teachings of the Yoga Vasishtha and the Bhagavad Gita which may be said to be the first and second recorded ‘psychological counseling’ sessions in human history were delivered when both Lord Rama and Arjuna respectively were at the depths of their depression. If we realise that this is indeed a window of opportunity for growth, success will come to us the soonest. But if we miss this golden chance, then even the Divine will struggle to help us out of our own deep pit of self pity.

Angamejayatva are the physical tremors of the body. The practice of asana helps us to attain to a state of physical control over our body. This enables us to go beyond the dwandwa, the pair of opposites that are the cause of these tremors. Tremors are an externalized manifestation of internal imbalances of our emotions and mind. Imbalance at the higher level causes the imbalance in the neuro-chemical transmitters and psycho-physiological pathways of the body, resulting in these physical tremors. When confronted with such a frightening manifestation, many aspirants get scared whether they are harming themselves and stop their Sadhana out of fear.

Shvasaprasvasa refers to the irregularity in breathing patterns. One of the main physical manifestations of mental and emotional upsets is the haphazardness of respiration. Ancient Yogis contemplated this deeply and found that mental disturbances cause irregularity and instability of respiration. Though their jnana drishti (perspective of wisdom) they realised that by stabilizing the breath, we can conversely produce a stability of emotions and mind. This knowledge is used even today in the practice of pranayama, when it is used as a means of altering the higher (mind) through the lower (body). This is one of the best examples of the numerous somato-psychic applications found in the practices of hatha yoga, the physical science of balancing equal and opposite energies.

Holistic Approach of Yoga:

The Yogic holistic approach to life that ‘everything is important and everything has its effect’ could do much to improve the mind, body and emotional states of well being. These practical approaches to health include:

  • The use of early morning sunlight for healing and rejuvenative activities
  • The use of water for internal and external cleansing
  • Careful attention to diet of a sattvic nature
  • Realising the necessity for balance between exertion and relaxation as all tension must be balanced using concept of spanda nishpanda or “exertion-relaxation-exertion-relaxation” in an alternating rhythm of activity,
  • Learning how to “unwind” through the many relaxation techniques available in the Yoga science which can balance the immense amount of stress and strain that are part and parcel of day to day life
  • Realising the need for clean air, water and food
  • Becoming aware of the effect of modern modes of entertainment and addictive habits in general debilitation of the physical, emotional and mental nature
  • Providing a “working philosophy” which will sustain one in triumph and defeat
  • Learning to be sensitive to one’s own bio-rhythms, one’s own physical, mental and emotional cycles
  • Being aware of the effects of the seasons and the various unnatural life styles to which the modern man is exposed

Conclusion:
In short, all of these aspects of Yoga as a way of natural living can provide relief for many of the psychosomatic ailments affecting humankind today.
The dedicated practice of Yoga as a way of life is no doubt a panacea for problems related to psychosomatic, stress related physical, emotional and mental disorders and helps us regain our birthright of health and happiness. It is only when we are healthy and happy that we can fulfil our destiny.

There are so many like Sumathi who have benefited by the life enhancing qualities of Yoga as a way of life. Many of them were in the depths of despair and on the verge of committing suicide before they came to Yoga. Today after many years of sadhana coupled with the adoption of the Yoga Bhavana (Yogic attitudes) they have not only climbed out of the ‘deep self-made well’ of depression but are guiding others too. Some of them have become beacon lights to hundreds of their fellow human beings and are enabling them to come out of their shells and shine bright as stars. A lighted lamp gives off more light when it ‘shares’ itself by giving to other lamps thus enlightening the universe. So also, these harmonious human beings are spreading the ‘Joy of Yoga’ all over the world and in doing so fulfilling their destiny.

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