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21 Jul 2005

Mental illness
Can Yoga beat Bipolar Mood Disorder without medication such as antidepressants, mood stabilisers and antipshycotic medication?
Answer 405 views

01 Jan 0001

Hi Fiona - it is my belief that yoga will certainly aid in the treatment of mental ailments by virtue of its strong emphasis on controlling the breath, which in yogic belief is the bridge that spans the chasm between the physical body and the mind. Yoga can positively influence health and well-being in a number of ways, typically associated with commonly accepted medical practices. Yoga prevents and assists injuries of the muscular/skeletal systems (physical therapy), helps to prevent or reverse stress-related diseases (stress reduction), keeps the body and mind agile (anti-aging) and can influence behaviour like sleep and diet (preventive medicine). Yoga influences how we think, feel about, and
respond to experiences (psychotherapy), can influence our social relationships, provide a sense of social support and community (social intervention), and helps us cope with the physical and psychological pain associated with illness (complementary medicine).

As to whether or not to use yoga instead of or together with medication, I turn to a more knowledgeable source in the form of Timothy McCall M.D. - Yoga Journal's medical editor and an extract from an article he wrote:

" Some of our students have used the yogic tools we teach--like asana, breathing techniques, and chanting--to avoid taking antidepressants or to reduce their dependency on the drugs.

But we don't offer the workshops as a method of persuading people not to find pharmaceutical support in difficult times. There are situations when drugs truly are just what the doctor ordered. I view them as powerful means--along with yoga, aerobic exercise, and psychotherapy--to help address what can be a life-threatening condition.

Not only can clinical depression lead to suicide, but it can suppress the immune system and heighten the risk of dying of a heart attack or suffering a recurrence of cancer. In the right circumstances, antidepressants can offer amazing life support.

Mind you, these medications--such as Prozac and Zoloft--are far from perfect. They can take weeks to become effective and, unfortunately, are not guaranteed to work for everyone. Sometimes it takes a painful process of trial and error to find the right antidepressant. And even when a particular drug does offer relief, it can trigger various side effects--from insomnia to sexual difficulties to a blunting of all emotions.

Yet antidepressants can help some people overcome depression, and can also give them the strength to tackle psychotherapy, bring themselves to their yoga mats, and make other life changes that may make the drugs ultimately unnecessary. Other people, particularly those with repeated episodes of major clinical depression, may need antidepressants for longer periods to stay out of the abyss.

Despite the proven benefits of these drugs, some people cling to the outmoded belief that they (or others) should be able to "snap out of it" without relying on the "crutch" of medication. Clearly, the persistence of this belief in our culture has little to do with its value and much to do with our fears about mental illness.

What's wrong with seeking help when you need it? No one would dare to guilt-trip a diabetic about needing insulin or think a person who takes an antibiotic to get over pneumonia is spiritually weak. But our society has yet to completely accept mental illness and its treatments as just another entry on a medical chart.

Antidepressants themselves are neither good nor bad. What matters is whether they are an appropriate choice for you in light of your overall condition and the other methods at your disposal. Far from being a sign of weakness, recognizing when you need medication is a matter of seeing clearly--which is what yoga is all about. It can take a lot of strength to recognize the painful reality that you need help.

The question is not just whether to take an antidepressant but what you do with the resulting lift in mood and energy."

Hope this helps.
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