Geeky wellbeing favourites: March
Tools for weird times, plus the usual yoga science highlights
I’ve been torn about whether I actually wanted to write this month’s newsletter. Somehow, it feels weird, inappropriate even, when there’s a war going on and a potential for a third world war in the horizon.
But at the same time, maybe it’s in times like these that we need tools for wellbeing. So here are some ideas, plus the usual yoga science highlights.
Are you feeling angry? Me too. Not just with the war, but with other things too. There’s nothing wrong with that – anger is a completely normal emotion. Check out this episode from the Happiness Lab, which covers how to work with your anger and how to use it in more constructive ways, including taking action (and by action I don’t mean fighting! I did say constructive).
Writing with the stoics
I can strongly recommend this month-long practice in stoicism. I completed this in November and found it truly transformational, and there’s another one starting on the 17th of March. Although the overall focus is death, and learning to cope with the idea of impermanence, it challenges you to think about life through a different lens – and ultimately better cope with whatever life throws at you (I’m not sure if this will extend to war but who knows).
Every day, you get an email with an extract from Marcus Aurelius’ meditations to copy and consider in your journal. Then, if you wish, you can share with other participants in the dedicated Stoic Salon Slack channel.
We’re also currently working through 52 exercises of living like a stoic, another very practical tool for living.
Sometimes taking a few moments to breathe more consciously can help. Here’s a recording from a couple of years ago of one of my favourite pranayama practices, Brahma mudra.
Yoga nidra is not just for sleep! I love this one that my lovely teacher Melanie has on insight timer for first thing in the morning. It could help to feel more energised and positive about the day ahead.
Yoga science highlights
Yoga does not help with adolescent depression – it’s important to report not just the positive results, but the negative results too. This systematic review and meta-analysis found that aerobic exercise or aerobic plus resistance exercise practiced at least three times per week significantly improved depressive symptoms among adolescents, whereas yoga did not. However, we do have the usual issue of how you define yoga (which the authors do note) – it’s possible that meditation alone doesn’t help, whereas a more physical practice does.
Yoga and inflammation – Here’s a short review of the published research on the effects of yoga on inflammation, specifically on molecules that drive inflammation in the body. I may well write a blog post summary of this, but you have it if you want to check it out in the mean time.
Yoga for menopause – A randomised controlled study (104 participants) found that yoga helped to improve sleep quality in peri- and post-menopausal woman, but not pre-menopausal women, when practiced for 20 weeks. I don’t have access to the paper so I can’t tell how good the study is and what it is they actually did and tested, but interesting nonetheless.
Zoom sessions for those living with Parkinson’s – A small qualitative study (10 participants) that mainly looked to see if it’s actually possible to deliver yoga sessions remotely to those living with Parkinson’s (during the pandemic). Participants practiced a simple physical practice (the sequence is actually included in the paper, which is nice) alongside meditation and breathing , and found it an enjoyable and positive experience. The study also identified benefits in motor skills, balance, mental health and health-related quality of life.
Who teaches yoga? – This is a bit random and an example of how your sample can skew your research and conclusions. A research study looking at who is teaching yoga in the UK found that most teachers are 45–64 y/o, female and white, primarily teaching Hatha and Iyengar style yoga. While the female and white is consistent with my experience, most teachers I know are younger and teach vinyasa. Thoughts?
From the blog this month
‘Sleep hygiene’ may help in Alzheimer’s – could yoga support too? News that sleep hygiene could help to delay or lessen the severity of Alzheimer’s – if yoga can help with better sleep, could it help with Alzheimer’s too?
Is it time for some megastudy thinking in yoga research? One of the biggest problems of understanding the effects of yoga on our health and minds and bodies more broadly is that a lot of yoga research is, frankly, a bit shit. So it was great to see the publication of this guidance last week on how yoga studies should be designed and reported. But it doesn’t really go far enough. Could megastudy thinking be what we are missing?
You may have missed
Is yoga community good for our immunity? – Are you back in the studio? Although it can be scary, there may be benefits from feeling more connected to our yoga community.
Yoga, self-compassion and being a better friend to yourself – Sometimes we need a reminder, especially in winter.
Yoga as an antidote for depression – An oldie; study showing that yoga helps to reduce depressive symptoms in a range of mental health conditions.