Robin Williams, the man that brought immense joy and laughter to the world, was plagued by depression. The National Institute of Mental Health acknowledges seven percent of American adults experience depression in any given year. It can be a serious illness, that cannot be cured through comedic bursts. While those battling depression or PTSD should seek the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist to ease their pain, yoga therapy for depression is increasingly becoming a welcomed complementary form of treatment.
Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., speaking to yoga therapists in Austin, said compassion must begin with each of us. “We are all wounded. We have become integrated only when our hearts break open. Feel the joy and the sadness of every moment. Life has the bitterness of finality and loss, but the sweetness of babies, love, and guacamole.”
Mary Partlow Lauttamus is the director of the yoga therapy program at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. She has witnessed how many feel joy and sadness. Working in law enforcement to reduce levels of stress and PTSD, she has found that the see-saw triggered by investigating terrorism, homicide, and suicide may be one reason why detectives suffer the highest rates of suicide.
We Are All Wounded
While many go unreported, “Fifty percent of deaths in law enforcement are due to suicide. Members of law enforcement have unique stressors like 12-hour shifts and unpredictable shifts. When a fellow officer falls, they suffer an enormous amount of grief and loss. Stress, unmanaged, erodes resilience,” she adds.
“Officer safety” is now more than flack jackets and bodybuilding,” adds Partlow Lauttamus, who offers a program to the Falls Church, VA police department. Her yoga therapy is a self-care program focused around hatha yoga, mindfulness meditation, and Yoga Nidra, a type of guided meditation where one hovers between sleep and consciousness.
Dr. Mandy Jordan, from the University of North Texas, also recommends Yoga Nidra for the psychiatric population. Among her research cases, all had diagnoses of major depression. After listening to Yoga Nidra recordings, they went from significant to mild depression rates over time.
Richard Miller, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, researcher, and yogic scholar. Miller and his team have completed numerous studies on the benefits of yoga therapy for depression or PTSD.
People Don’t Need to Suffer
“We know in one session we can have a great impact. I know in two to three months, I’ve got a person for life…where they can really feel the life change. Research shows…the actual brain structures start to change… we see the amygdala shrinking, the hippocampus growing, and thickening of the cortex of the brain.”
Miller has trained 1,700 people from Botswana to New Zealand. His students guide others in Yoga Nidra in Farsi, Hebrew, and many other languages. Much of the work Miller does is with the military.
“How many (of the active military) are doing it? Too few. Wherever we go, the good news is we’re really well received. The moment they taste this, and sense a feeling of coming home, the more they want more.”
Janice Gates is the former President of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. She is also the author of Yogini, the Power of Women in Yoga. As a yoga therapist, her personal journey dealing with depression is especially poignant.
She herself broke through the darkness that she hid from those around her. “Something opened inside of me. I noticed the waves and it was like all my years of yoga practice. I got it. I am the ocean. And the waves are just the waves of my experience. One of my teachers said to turn towards it. Welcome it. This was my yoga.”
“Many students come to us looking to heal their physical pain. But many also want freedom from the suffering that comes from being human. Why am I suffering? They want to find peace. The true goal of yoga is to awaken…to transcend, up and out. We are all going to get old. Some will get sick. We are all going to die. A crisis can be extremely clarifying. My mantra each day is EVERY DAY IS A BONUS.”