How Yoga Benefits Women with Postpartum Depression

Motherhood is one of those personal milestones that’s both exciting and challenging. You look forward to holding that little bundle of joy in your arms, yet you put your body through so much in order to deliver a healthy baby.

New moms are said to go through a whole wave of emotions, starting from conception all the way to labor.

A Snapshot of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression remains an elephant in the room for most new moms. Many of them are overwhelmed with such an enormous and significant change in their lives. They struggle through the sleepless nights, the diaper changes.

The Center for Disease Prevention notes that 1 in 9 women will go through this experience after childbirth. Unfortunately, not everyone with postpartum depression has the right support system to help them overcome it or they simply push it aside and refuse to confront the problem head-on.

“Many women believe that motherhood should be the happiest time of their lives, but privately they are exhausted and miserable after giving birth., says psychotherapist and Kundalini yoga instructor Susan Ricker. “Because they are ashamed of their feelings, they don’t give themselves permission to deal with the fears they have”, she explains further.

Yoga as Treatment
But there is a way out of those dark days and that seemingly insurmountable feeling of helplessness. Postpartum depression can be treated effectively. In fact, there are a number of options to choose from when it comes to this.

One particularly holistic approach is yoga.

A study entitled the Efficacy of Yoga for Postpartum Depression, published in 2014 on the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website found that women who took part in 16 yoga classes over the course of 8 weeks “experienced significantly greater rate of improvement in depression, anxiety, and HRQOL, relative to the control group with moderate to large effects.”

So how does it work in the brain? Candace Pert, the author of The Molecules of Emotion, says that the hypothalamus obtains information from our cells and our senses. It then generates chemical messengers that are sent back down the body in the form of hormones and peptides. Our bodies respond to these chemical messengers through physiological changes as well as varying moods, emotions, and energy levels.

New moms often tax their sympathetic nervous system, responsible for our body’s “fight or flight” mechanism and release stress hormones. Yoga practitioners with postpartum depression learn to control their own breathing. This effectively changes the balance of the hormonal messengers that are in the body. Now, the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation, becomes the focus.

Postpartum depression is a burden shared by many new mothers. However, it need not rob one of enjoying the full experience of motherhood. Through yoga, new moms can learn that it is okay to breathe and relax. They devote time to centering and connecting with themselves so they can have the energy and the mindset to be able to fulfill their responsibilities at home.

Christina Ng

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