De effectieve werking van yoga als antidepressivum
Maak je niet druk. Stel je niet aan. Neem nog een pilletje. Of een drankje. Wat je wil. Alles wat je een beetje verdooft. Niet zo makkelijk in deze periode die veel van ons vraagt. Een periode waarin we de neiging hebben om te vervallen in een depressieve toestand. Geen zin meer hebben om iets te doen. Depressie is de nieuwe epidemie in onze maatschappij van tegenwoordig. Wereldwijd lijden er meer dan 300 miljoen mensen van alle leeftijden aan een van de meest voorkomende psychologische aandoeningen. Depressie is een serieuze complexe psychische gezondheidstoestand en het is echt wat meer dan een beetje verdrietig zijn. Het heeft een enorme negatieve impact op ons fysiek en psychisch welbevinden. Mensen die kampen met depressie voelen zich somber en ongelukkig, ontbreekt het aan interesse en motivatie en zien geen enkele hoop meer voor de toekomst. Als een depressie niet effectief behandeld wordt, kan het een chronische conditie worden.
Terwijl antidepressiva doorgaans massaal worden voorgeschreven gaat dit ook gepaard met een lijst vol met bijwerkingen die een gevaar vormen voor ieders gezondheid, zoals lage bloeddruk, spierkrampen, agressie, verwardheid en verminderd zicht. Ook is het bewezen dat antidepressiva weinig effect heeft op de lange termijn. Onderzoek wijst uit dat 40% van de mensen die antidepressiva gebruikt niet volledig herstellen van hun depressie. Bovendien, buiten het feit dat er geen volledige remissie bereikt wordt in meer dan de helft van de gevallen plus de negatieve bijwerkingen van deze medicatie, wordt de echte oorzaak van het probleem niet aangepakt wanneer er antidepressiva worden genomen. Het lijkt misschien te werken op de korte termijn, vanwege het onderdrukkende en verdovende effect van de medicatie. Dit zorgt ervoor dat gevoelens van ongemak, pijn en verdriet niet meer zo sterk worden ervaren. Echter biedt het geen lange termijn oplossing, omdat antidepressiva alleen maar de symptomen van de depressie aanpakt en niets doet met de onderliggende gevoelens en oorzaken.
Neem een diepe adem op je mat in plaats van een pil
In toenemende mate komt er bewijs dat yoga en ademhalingsoefeningen bijdragen aan een goede fysieke en mentale gesteldheid. Studies wijzen uit dat yoga een depressie kan aanpakken door de stresshormoonhuishouding en de werking van de hersenen in balans te brengen. Stressreductie is belangrijk in de behandeling van depressie en dit kan effectief bewerkstelligd worden door yoga en ademhalingsoefeningen. Yoga kan worden ingezet als een diepe effectieve therapeutische tool in de preventie en behandeling van depressie.
Vijf redenen waarom je je yogamat als effectief antidepressivum kunt gebruiken
- Yoga is meer dan activatie
In de behandeling van depressie is ‘activatie’ – in beweging komen – een van de essentiële sleutels tot positieve verandering van de gemoedstoestand van mensen. Door het lichaam fysiek te bewegen worden er ‘gelukshormonen’ vrijgemaakt in de hersenen. De serotonine productie neemt toe, versterkt het immuunsysteem en dit maakt je minder vatbaar voor depressie. Het beoefenen van yoga is nog veel meer dan fysieke beweging. Het blijkt dat mindful bewegen met bewustzijn en aandacht een grotere positieve invloed heeft op het centrale zenuwstelsel dat zorgt voor een goede balans tussen spanning en ontspanning.
- Yoga stimuleert stressontlading
In behandeling van depressie ligt de nadruk op het ontladen van stress, aangezien de stressreceptoren aanzienlijk overwerkt zijn wanneer je gebukt gaat onder depressie. Het beoefenen van yoga zorgt ervoor dat de focus meer gaat liggen op ontspanning en het leren loslaten van stress en spanning in het lichaam. Door een consequente yoga beoefening op reguliere basis, in combinatie met goede ademhalingstechnieken, kunnen er dieperliggende spanningen en stress worden losgelaten op het niveau van het centrale zenuwstelsel. Ook worden er endorfines, gelukshormonen die tevens pijnstillend werken, vrijgegeven door het rekken en strekken van spieren in het lichaam. Bovendien zorgt een yoga practice voor een afname van hyperactivatie in het lijf dat resulteert in een lagere hartslag, bloeddruk en maakt de ademhaling een stuk makkelijker. De hartslag variabiliteit, een indicator van de capaciteit van het lichaam om meer flexibeler met stress om te gaan, neemt toe door het beoefenen van yoga.
- Yoga zorgt voor structuur en routine
Mensen die kampen met depressie vinden het vaak moeilijk om goed voor zichzelf te zorgen en de juiste keuzes te maken over hun gezondheid, voeding en slaap, wat weer een negatief effect kan hebben op werk of studieprestaties. Uiteraard heeft dit dan ook weer een enorme negatieve invloed op je zelfwaarde. Een regelmatige beoefening van yoga, bij voorkeur in de vroege ochtend, geeft je iets om op te staan uit bed. Het brengt structuur terug in het dagelijks leven, een goede start van de dag en zet de toon voor de rest ervan. Naast de positieve gezondheidseffecten van zo’n routine, vraagt het ook enige toewijding en discipline om te doen. Dit kan een uitdaging zijn op zichzelf aangezien mensen die kampen met depressie de neiging hebben om dingen op te geven of ze niet af te maken. Dus het daadwerkelijk kunnen volhouden van de routine geeft je eigenwaarde een enorme boost. Het geeft een reden om te geloven in eigen kunnen.
- Yoga is exposure therapie
In plaats van het verdoven van gevoelens of alleen te kijken naar de symptomen van depressie zoals antidepressiva doen, biedt het beoefenen van yoga ‘full on exposure therapy’. Lichaamsbewustzijn en mentaal bewustzijn nemen toe en het creëert een verbinding met de taal van het lichaam. Het beoefenen van yoga biedt een spiegel die je laat zien wat er echt van binnen speelt en er is geen mogelijkheid om dit te vermijden. Emoties, gedachten en gevoelstoestanden komen omhoog gedurende een yoga practice. Dat wat gezien wil worden, laat zich zien daar is geen ontkomen aan. Yoga leert je om te zijn met alles wat er is en om jezelf te observeren van een afstand. Waarden van acceptatie en compassie nemen toe, hoe moeilijk dat soms ook is. Daarbij leer je het principe van loslaten, van emoties, gedachten en identificaties door de beoefening van yoga. Je bent je depressie niet. Het is een staat van zijn die komt en gaat en je bent veel meer dan dat.
- Yoga geeft je tools om je depressie te behandelen op de lange termijn
Depressie neemt vaak iedere hoop op de toekomst weg en legt een donkere schaduw over alles in het leven. Het blokkeert alle innerlijke levenskracht en energie. Antidepressiva kunnen dit verdoven, maar de schaduw blijft vaak bestaan. Yoga geeft een gevoel van hoop en licht aan het einde van de tunnel. Een reguliere practice zorgt voor het opbouwen van stamina, kracht en een sterke connectie met onze ‘core’. Het bewustzijn van de werking van mula bandha is uddiyana bandha onmiskenbare tool om toegang te krijgen tot prana, onze levenskracht. Op een ander niveau hebben mensen die kampen met depressie vaak de connectie verloren met zichzelf en de wereld om hen heen. Het beoefenen van yoga maakt je gevoeliger, sensitiever en bewust van een connectie met iets dat groter is dan jij. Dit brengt ons terug naar de oorsprong van yoga, die ontstaan is voor vele geloofsovertuigingen en een gegronde basis en vertrouwen geeft dat een depressie een alleen maar een schaduw kan zijn die komt en ook weer gaat.
Een diepe adem op je mat.
Working together in understanding the inner you
It’s quite something if you don’t want to nourish yourself anymore. If you deprive yourself from your daily needs. When you feel the inevitable need to control yourself in such extreme ways. If you starve yourself to death. That something must be haunting yourself so deeply that you aren’t able to get out of it, no matter what the people around you say and do. That there is such a big difference in the way you perceive yourself than that others perceive you. That the obsession of wanting to lose weight no matter what, makes you lose everything in life, including yourself.
Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder characterised by attempts to lose weight to the point of starvation, with a lot of physical, hormonal, psychological and emotional complications. Almost 5% of the women in western societies suffer from this condition in a severe way. Amongst men we see a lower percentage, but we also know that it can manifest itself in other forms. And besides that, there are many people finding themselves in the grey areas, having issues with (not having) food, but living a kind of normal life. These are the highly functioning people on whom we will never get a grip on, because there’s no reason to change for them. However, the fact remains that there is a growing problem worldwide and the excessive food culture we’re living in is only making it worse.
As a child of a mother who was suffering from anorexia, I was a close witness for years of the physical and emotional imprisonment that this condition brings across. I saw its devastating effects on not only my mother herself, but on her whole environment that became smaller and smaller, eventually resulting in serious isolation. Health, work, relationships and love of many and even her children were falling apart, in the end being drenched in every aspect of life that was not only related to food anymore. The path of destruction pulls everything with it into a dark black hole, where it’s very lonely and scary.
It’s not only because of all the patterns of lying, manipulation, secretly hiding and obsessive compulsive behaviour people suffering from anorexia become isolated, but there’s also a lot of misunderstanding and judgmental behaviour in the outside world. Sadly I saw how pathological loneliness and emptiness led to ultimate self-destruction and finally to death. Often it has made me feel very powerless not being able to save someone so close from dying and I punished myself with feelings of guilt and shame, which was not always easy to turn around, but I did. In many ways I’m very grateful now for my life experiences so far that bring me back to the essence of my values as a human being – as a person and professional – in my daily life and how I want to connect and work on a therapeutic basis with others.
Ironically, I find myself nowadays working a lot with people that are suffering from eating disorders and body image issues that unfortunately are being increased by society’s emphasis on the physical appearance and the superficial ideal picture of a so called ‘perfect’ body. What is important in that for me, is that we go beyond that. It’s about finding the inner self that is deeply hidden underneath the layers of the physical body. Wanting to control the appearance for the outside world, its shape, form and weight is a way of coping with something that goes on deep down inside and trying to deal with the believed powerlessness of not being able to have any control on that.
Recently, one of the women that I’m seeing weekly expressed that she wanted to share in public for the first time how life is living with anorexia and believes that sharing her story can help many others in the path of healing. I believe deeply in that too, as well as in the collaboration of our therapeutic process and sharing that with others. Therefore, we will come up in the next period with sharing our dialogues and bringing them to the point where we can understand and connect from the perspective what’s needed when working with anorexia nervosa. In this article we address five major aspects that are needed in therapy to reflect upon and take into account to understand the inner you when it comes to dealing with anorexia nervosa.
At a young age I felt my life wasn’t going like in other families and I always felt different. My parents always had a lot of fights and as a child I had to jump in between, asking them to stop. I wasn’t aware of the situation I was being pulled in and it gave me a deep rooted feeling that I couldn’t do anything right as a child. I was seeking support in cartoon characters like the Care Bears stories on television and my biggest wish was that would be alive so they could give me a helping hand. In puberty life was hell on earth for me. My body changed from a child into a woman and I had my first sexual abuse experience, which I didn’t saw as abuse because it was all looking very nicely by good parenting. At school I had a difficult time, I had problems with concentrating and I was bullied for being too fat for two years. My second sexual abuse was during a high school party by two classmates. I couldn’t tell what happened at home, I was feeling ashamed of myself so I hided it for years. I was feeling very lonely, ugly and fat which I could not change. I had no self worth nor self esteem. Years where passing by and actually nothing changed at home. During dinner I felt like an outcast of the family. Fights between my parents were always my fault. At the age of 20 I started with a diet and I allowed myself strict two pieces of food a day. I went to school by bike and work so I had my daily exercising. I started to control my weight every day. Nobody had any idea. I wanted to lose weight, only a few kilo’s. At the age of 36, I wanted a relationship so badly so I started to chat with a man on Facebook. I thought everything went right and I was hoping for a warm relationship. But it wasn’t. He had some serious problems with alcohol, and gambling and most time he was drunk, hammering on my front door of my apartment. Even in my own home I wasn’t feeling safe. I wasn’t able to say “No”. After eight months the relationship was over. During that time I was feeling depressed, didn’t understand wat was going on with me so started my diet again, this time with almost no food and started to throw up after eating. The first time it felt like a huge step like jumping in front of a car but after several times it went easy. It’s all about control. I fell of from 62.1 kg to 42.6 kg now on my age of 43. Every day is a new day, a new fight try to let go of control.
- Connection & trust in the therapeutic relationship
For me, one of the most important things I found in dealing with anorexia controlling my life, is that nobody sees me the way I do. I often felt misunderstood by mental health professionals or in daily life. I had moments where I didn’t even knew who I was and that made me feel very depressed. When you find someone (a good professional) to talk to and stay connected with, understanding and trust are so incredible important and valuable.
In every therapeutic relationship it’s crucial to establish a connection in which authenticity, honesty, safety, trust and compassion are present. I personally take a lot of time to build on these anchors, because I believe this is the key of progress in any form of therapy. Many studies have shown that a good therapeutic relationship has helped many in more ways than the therapeutic content of the therapy. For me this is what it’s all about.
- Working on (self) acceptance beyond shame
In most cases anorexia has an underlying deeper problem that causes the disease, which is also the case for me. I developed a PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because of something that happened in the early years of my life, and in a way I had lost control over my life and the situation. For me it felt that as long as I experienced someone else is having controle over my life, in an unhealthy way, it is pretty hard to let go the control of food and weight. Same for the feelings of unworthiness, insecurity and lack of self love. This causes for example loneliness and feelings of self hate. It was so important for me to face the problem and accept it the way it is. I realised that I can’t change the past. But I can change the future.
Feelings of self hatred, shame and unworthiness, not wanting to be here, even not wanting to exist at all are so painful to experience. But this is where the healing process starts. To be with all these feelings in all its heaviness and painfulness in the connection with someone you trust. Sharing that in itself is breaking through the barriers of shame. In the safety of the sharing you give it the space to just be. Someone else is seeing for who you are again and is being ok with that. This is a very big challenge and a process that needs a lot of time. Dealing with unresolved traumas or life events that are often the underlying cause of developed behaviour that gives someone in a way self control back, even though it’s destructive, and then letting that go again, requires a lot of strength and resilience. It’s not the food. It’s not the body. It’s what’s inside that needs attention and wants to come out in the presence of non-judgment and compassion.
- Feeling safe
It is normal when you are not feeling safe, talking about anorexia and the underlying problem is very hard to do. I have experienced that many times. For me it’s important to find a healthy adult modus in a person, who is there for you when you’re not coping with the pain inside. Someone who lays an arm around you, shows compassion, gives you a hug and cares for you. It took years finding the right person for help and acceptance of my underlying problem and a long time to find out what makes me feel comfortable. For example I like to write about beauty I see in things and in life, being creative, using my imagination to let go of fear, anger, grief and control.
I do too believe that safety comes first. Always. In the first place the safety of welcoming you with all your flaws. And that everything is just fine. To hold the space for whatever is going on. This can only happen when it feels safe. Besides this emotional safety, as human beings we also need a sense of physical safety. The nervous system can calm down when there’s a sense of physical connection and togetherness. A hand, an arm, a hug. Sometimes this might even be too much. Somatic approaches can help then to create a safe feeling within yourself. And journalling is always a great way to express what’s going on inside.
- Redefining perfect as whole
Facing my problem is pretty hard to do. I know that dealing with it takes time to cure. I noticed that the inner voice in myself will continually try to stay in control with food, weight and causes me to live my life in fear instead of facing and accepting the underlying problem. It’s important to find connection to your inner self, to live in the moment and find some kind of inner peace.
I believe that loving yourself is one of the hardest things to learn in life. It takes a lot of time and awareness is the first step in that. Of course you will fall back. And that’s ok. Just to realise that this is exactly what is being needed. The place where you need to be. For me perfect is being whole. Integrating all the parts of yourself, also the ones you don’t like about yourself and having the space and light to just let it be. Without darkness there wouldn’t be no light. Accepting that is seeing it for what it is and allowing it to be there without judgement.
- Working on finding inner peace
It’s easy to say ‘find inner peace’, but there are tools which may be helpful as I have found. I learned to look at nature around me. Try yoga, meditation, visit a good friend who is willing to help and look for distraction. I made myself feel valuable and it helped me to be proud on myself. Actually self love is the most important issue to heal from anorexia that gave me inner peace.
Inner peace is an easy term that is being used for many reasons. It’s important to find your own reason. Therapy only works when you find your way in that and what resonates with you. Yoga and meditation are anchors that can support you to find your inner peace. But in the end it’s all about that what brings you back to a consistent practice of mindfulness. Whatever that may be. Don’t forget to breathe.
Letting go step by step is the key
In the end I’ve learned it’s all about letting go. Letting go is all about acceptance and commitment. Commitment with your inner child or inner adult, commitment and connection with your heart. From my own experience I know it’s difficult, hard, very emotional and scary but also relieving just letting (little) things go, one by one.
In letting go of all there is, we need to take one step at a time and do this one day at a time. Working together in understanding the inner you is a process that can’t be forced, nor rushed. Everything takes time and that’s ok. Every step is a milestone and worth to stand still for together in many ways. And that’s the path that we walk together in therapy. Step by step.
Step by step. One forward and two back. Just when you think you had this. Fear of falling back. Deep rooted patterns are catching up and make their manipulative way to pull you back into their prison. Relapse is part of recovery. Loving kindness looks upon the so called mess and let things just be.
The story of your life isn’t a fixed determined thing. If you want there’s time. A process. The allowance that the seeds which have been planted will grow into beautiful flowers. At its own pace. Peacefully.
A journey of time paced by patience. Gentleness. In the acceptance of what is and an allowance of being ok with that.
Petal by petal slowly opening up. From gross to subtle. Uncovering. Peeling the layers that have protected the pure essence, with the right intentions but therefore also hampering it from seeing the light. That cannot exist without the darkness that has brought you to the place where you are now.
The time to shine. Bright. Drama is making place for colours coming from the heart, moving into the direction of that what wants to be seen. Into the open. Holding the space for all there is.
Connection. Touched by the touch of life.
Nourished by love growing into vulnerability, revealing the immense beautiful power of life. A never ending shaking off. Letting go of all that doesn’t serve anymore.
Without fear, shame or guilt. Just as it is.
Different shapes moving into other facets of the same being where shadows disappear. Like seeing the light for the first time. Waking up. Unfolding sparkles of essence shine and rise. Coming closer to what it’s all about.
Breathing in the core of your being. Making space for you as you are. That beautiful being of you, that has always been wholesome. Opening up for all there is.
Breathing out and letting all go. A deep release. Knowing deep down inside that you don’t have to carry this any longer. Being able to just leave it. For what it is. Without judgement.
Life never promised you a rose garden.
The emptiness remains. This is the place where we are. In nothingness. In no man’s land. It requires a lot of courage to be here. Battlefields where flowers can’t grow.
Fight, flight and freeze. Responses to what was, but isn’t present right now. Overwhelming feelings of tsunamis that are rolling over. Fear. It’s ok. At this moment all is fine. Creating a playground for the inner child that just wants to be. Playing with the simplicity of life. In that safe space. The being. Nothing more, noting less.
The flower only opens itself up when it feels safe enough to do this. And you’re walking the walk. Resilient. Fierce. Step by step. In the direction of you. Growing towards the light. Blooming in your own way. More and more nourished by drops of compassion that comes from the heart. Awareness that is being reflected in the mirror of life. Seeing what is needed to heal. Everything you give attention, grows.
Healing wholesome. Perfectness in becoming whole again. One.
‘And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom’ – Anais Nin
It’s that time of the year again. A time to reflect upon what’s really important in life and make the balance in how far we were able to ‘achieve this’. The year is coming to an end and we’re being confronted with how many resolutions we were not able to keep, which results often in pessimistic thoughts and feelings. This is a pity and it often comes with feelings of guilt and shame that we somehow want to make up for the next year ahead. Amends are being made, love messages are being spread into the world accompanied by hopes and prayers. A new year, a new dawn, a new life is on its way. However, although it’s very good to set intentions and work towards this, by constantly wanting to change and be the best version of ourselves we risk to neglect what’s already there right now and that there is a lot to be grateful for. In fact, if we really want long lasting happiness to be our focus, we should repeatedly stand still and take a moment to appreciate the things we usually take for granted.
There are great benefits in cultivating gratitude and it’s a relatively simple thing to do, that doesn’t take a lot of time nor any costs. More and more scientific research is showing that practicing gratitude is the best instant therapy for body, mind and soul, and moreover it’s for free. On a physical level, grateful people are more likely to take care of their health and experience fewer aches and pains and they feel healthier than other people. Gratitude also improves psychological health. It reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from frustration and resentment to aggression and envy. Being grateful opens the heart, which enhances feelings of compassion, empathy and love. It makes us easier to forgive and reduces social comparisons, which also improves our self-esteem. Existing relationships are being deepened through the practice of gratitude and it opens the door to more new relationships. Also our inner strength is being increased by the attitude of gratitude. It not only reduces stress, but can help in overcoming trauma as well. If we recognise all the things we can be thankful for, even during the worst times of our life, our resilience and inner power will be fostered. Because we are more aware of what’s there by practicing gratitude, we are more connected with the here and now and able to sincerely enjoy the present moment. It brings us in touch with our inner joy, the things that really make our heart tick, closely connects to what’s essential in our lives and hence defines our sense of happiness.
Gratitude is a practice. It is an approach to life that goes further than just saying thank you. It requires a constant awareness, a deep appreciation for all there is and humbleness for all that is bigger than us. This also includes experiences that left a bad taste in your mouth. Like every practice, you just have to do it. It doesn’t come by itself and it requires some time and effort, but is basically quite ‘easy’ to learn.
How to adapt an attitude of gratitude? I believe there are four stages in the practice of gratitude that you will go through when integrating this approach to life for yourself.
The first step in a change process or learning a new skill is awareness. You can cultivate awareness through repeated contemplation. Set fixed times every day, preferably a moment in the early morning when the mind is still and before you go to bed, to contemplate on the concept of gratitude. Feel how this is resonating within. Become aware of all the things that you are grateful for in your life, the things that make you smile within. The people who are dear to you. All the experiences that have brought you to the place where you are right now, even the painful ones. See if you can focus on a gratitude for life as it is. For being alive and being here right now. Taking these fixed moments will help you to integrate it as something natural in your daily life. You will notice that also outside of contemplation you will recognise and see more and more things for which you can be grateful in your life.
Why would you keep all these beautiful insights all for yourself? Express your gratitude in your own way. You can say it with words, gestures, actions and much more. The beauty of love and compassion is when it can flow, in between human beings, in the world around you, including animals and our planet. Through real communication, hearts are opened and this way you can really see someone or something for what it truly is. It brings you to the essence of what is. You’ll start to observe better and by taking the time it helps you to really be present. You know the feeling of being in love. This is being in love with the world, without losing reality out of sight. It also requires honesty and truthfulness in looking towards experiences that might have been painful but that also formed you into the beautiful person that you are right now.
The more thankful you are with everything, the more you will live in abundance and you won’t ‘need’ a lot of things anymore in order to be contented. True happiness doesn’t come from having a lot of wishes or desires being fulfilled but being truly able to appreciate this and not always wanting more. You will probably know many examples of people who seem to have it all, but are actually very unhappy. Because in the end it will be never enough and that will always make you live in search for something. Deep contentment doesn’t lie somewhere in the future. It is here and now.
- Giving back
Naturally, with an attitude towards life focused on gratitude an urge to ‘give back’ is stimulated. Because of these abundant feelings of gratefulness a wanting to give something coming from the heart arises. This is called unconditional giving and beautifully enough it gives back so much more in return in the same time and doesn’t come with a lot of effort. The giving in itself, an act of gratitude, multiplies even more when it is being received on the other side, leaving another grateful heart.
So, take a moment now to reflect upon all there is to be thankful for right now. Open up your senses. Observe. All is perfectly fine already. And if there would be one resolution to make for the next decade to come, let gratitude be your new attitude.
P.S. For life
I thank you life as you are. My greatest teacher ever. Thankful for all the beautiful moments, the deep experiences of darkness, light and all there is. My backpack has been filled throughout the years and yet there is so much space. Although it can weigh heavy on the heart, the beat goes on and keeps me going in lightness. Travelling home on an inner journey into unknown land at the bottom of the deep blue sea enriches your world with the most precious treasure … a shell with yourself in the flow of life.
P.S. For you
Thank you for you being in my life. For our real connection. I’m grateful for you being in my life. I wish you a beautiful end of the year filled with love and light. For now and forever.