Updated: Mar 16
Depression rates have continued to rise in America, and these rates were especially increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. While social isolation and financial risks and concerns associated with job losses contribute to a high portion of these increased rates, I also believe that there were other contributing factors.
Exercise, whether individually but especially in a team and social environment is an amazing way to release positive endorphins and decrease the risks and effects of depression. All gyms, exercise classes and sporting events were canceled during this time and many people became unmotivated to perform any activities in their homes. This led to weight gain, hormonal changes, and increased negative effects of the stresses of life. Exercise has been proven time and again to decrease the effects of depression and help people cope more easily with life‘s daily stressors.
But diving a little deeper, I wanted to talk about posture’s effect on mood. While we all became cooped up inside, spending more time in the seated position, and the zoom world became the only way to communicate with family members, social groups, and especially work environments, people were (and still are) spending a lot more time hunched over computers with rounded postures. Many people don’t realize that the way we sit can make us feel physically and emotionally heavy. Have you ever looked at somebody who is crying and depressed? Tell me if their chest and shoulders aren’t rounded forward with their head sloped. It is amazing the changes in people's faces, moods, mindsets and beliefs after we do some work to open the chest, hips, shoulders and realign the neck.
The position we hold our arms and sit in when typing at a computer, holding a tablet or even a cell phone, especially down in front of us, are the same positions that pull us into the rounded posture position and activate a certain set of muscle groups that turn on our fight flight or freeze response sympathetic nervous system response mode. When these muscles are turned on and over-utilized, it does not allow us to activate our smaller core and postural stabilizing muscles that are meant to hold us more upright, keep us calm, relaxed and satiated.
As these larger muscles continue to fire, they create restrictions and oftentimes pain. The restrictions in our tissues become further bound up the more time we spend in these “positions of comfort” that are ultimately dragging us down. Yoga can be a wonderful way to help open out these tissues and help to improve both your mood and energy levels, but not all yoga focuses on this.
Unlike many others, I was fortunate to keep my job during the pandemic, as a front line worker in a senior living community. The rest of my staff was furloughed and I was the only therapist allowed to see patients. However, they closed our gym, all fitness centers, and activities so I was required to go to everyone’s homes or apartments carrying therapy in a bag with my computer to document, and only had room on my caseload to see the most disabled or in the most need of therapy. Working with this population and seeing the immense decline in these residents and all of those around me without their activities and social interaction became so heavy, and ultimately depressing. I began searching for ways to find happiness for myself and those I was working with. Thankfully, I had already begun a frequent online yoga practice with the LYT method prior to the pandemic, and during this time I was practicing faithfully twice a day to keep myself motivated.
I now teach this method and my classes are all based on what can truly turn your day around. Most yoga classes focus heavily on forward folds for stretching both in standing and seated positions. We are already in these positions for far too long throughout the day! We need movements to counteract these postures and help to open our hearts, our chests, and our minds to something more positive. My classes avoid the forward fold by teaching you how to hinge well in your hips, and we create space in the body actively through strength, giving you the freedom and courage to continue moving on throughout your days and lives. Each class is motivating, uplifting, and always challenging enough to leave you wanting more. Improvement is always possible!
Check out my classes for just $15/month to experience the benefits in your body, energy levels, and mood today!
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Author: Dr. Sarah Kingsley PT, DPT, RYT
This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.