Sorry Thanks I Love You
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Banishing the Black Dog

Banishing the Black Dog

Every Monday at 6pm we offer free yoga classes in our Martin Place store lead by Bondi-based yoga teachers The Namaste Bitches.  The classes are held in association with non-profit community OneWave – a group committed to easing depression through movement, surfing and yoga.  This week we look at some medical research that explains why yoga is so good at keeping the black dog at bay.

The links between yoga and decreased anxiety are well documented.  Research by the Boston University Medical Centre has shown an association between yoga postures, increased levels of GABA (an amino acid which calms nervous activity), and decreased anxiety.   

Research published in the Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice also concluded that participation in a two month yoga class can lead to significant reduction in perceived levels of anxiety in women who suffer from anxiety disorders. 

Psychiatrists, researchers and yogis all agree: yoga definitely helps you keep your bats out of the belfry.  But how exactly does it do this?

Yoga brings together sequential movement, stretching, balancing, mental focus and controlled breathing.   Western research into yoga since the 1970’s has focused on all of these elements, but some of the most compelling analysis by the Harvard Medical School shows that ‘Sudarshan Kriya yoga’ – a type of breathing with roots in traditional yoga – shows promise in providing relief for depression.  

It’s something that the founders of Sydney based yoga teachers Namaste Bitches know a little bit about.  

“Yoga is an excellent way to help with mental health because it encourages mindfulness and being in the moment,” says Namaste Bitches’ Lucy Le Messurier Scott.    

“When you're trying to hold a rather challenging pose, your muscles are burning, you've got to stay focussed because you don't know what's coming next - this all pulls you into the 'now' which can help alleviate the exhausting nature of the churning mind. It gives you a break.” 

Yoga at Sorry Thanks I Love You, Sydney.

Certain poses can also help activate the peripheral nervous system, which, as Lucy explains, is basically the opposite of the fight or flight response.   It's also known as the 'rest and digest' phase - reducing blood pressure, slowing your heart down, letting you breathe more deeply.  “This all has the effect of relaxing us, oxygenating the body (through optimal breathing) and allowing our digestion to work to the best of its ability so we can benefit from the nutrients from our food,” says Lucy.

Different styles of yoga can offer different benefits, as well.  The vinyasa ‘flow’ yoga that the Namaste Bitches teach at Sorry Thanks I Love You activates the peripheral nervous system through tough poses that raise the heartbeat. However, Lucy explains, as soon as one is brought into the more relaxed state in the second half of the class, the body and brain is said to relax into the peripheral nervous system even more. 

The Namaste Bitches met at yoga teacher training when they discovered a shared passion for making yoga relevant to the general population in a fun and practical way. Namaste Bitches’ Michelle Doyle-Jones explains their recipe: ‘No sanskrit, no omms and definitely encouraging people to have a laugh.’

The Namaste Bitches: Lucy, Sibylle and Michelle.

We met the Namaste Bitches through our association with OneWave – a surf community who promote fun, movement and good mates as an antidote to depression and mental health problems.  OneWave is best known for their early morning ‘Fluro Friday’ sessions around the country, which began as a group surf (or surfing lesson) and a group chat, allowing people to talk about anything weighing on their mind, if they wanted to.

Fluro Friday sessions are held on beaches everywhere from Bondi to Lennox Heads, but because it can be tricky for a lot of people to hit the beach at sunrise, OneWave asked us to bring their concept into the CBD as part of our Random Acts of Kindness project. That’s why every Monday night, The Namaste Bitches host a free yoga class in our Martin Place store.


Fluro Friday at Bondi Beach. Image via Aquabumps.

Lucy explains that the Namaste Bitches always try to give their students a bit 'more' than just a set of stretches and strength exercises, like “knowledge about the human body, [and] tangible facts [people] can take away and use in daily life to benefit their mental and physical health.”

“Yoga is a psychosomatic experience between your body and your mind,” says Michelle.  “In yoga, your body moves fluidly and realigns and, if your mind lets you, it releases the tension of stress being held unnecessarily.” 

The proof, as ever, is certainly in the pudding.  Join us tomorrow at 6pm in our Martin Place, and see for yourself.

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Free yoga is held every Monday at 6pm in our Martin Place store.  Some mats are provided but please BYO if you have one. Classes are one hour in duration and there’s no need to register – just join us a few minutes before 6pm at Shop 2 (ground floor) No 1 Martin Place, Sydney.