Healing without Freud or Prozac
A Book Review by Catamaran Impi
Just recently we have had astonishing information coming out of the UK.
The NHS prescribed a record number of antidepressants last year, fuelling an upward trend that has seen the number of pills given to patients more than double over the last decade.
The figures raised questions over whether the rise shows doctors are handing out the drugs out too freely or whether it means more people are getting help to tackle their anxiety, depression and panic attacks.
Prescriptions for 64.7m items of antidepressants – an all-time high – were dispensed in England in 2016, the most recent annual data from NHS Digital showed. That was 3.7m more than the 61m items dispensed during 2015.
It also represents a massive 108.5% increase on the 31m antidepressants which pharmacies dispensed in 2006.
In the light of these figures, we are republishing a book review here which explores the healing of depression, anxiety and panic attacks without the use of antidepressants.
Is it really possible?
This is the question the author asks in this easy to read book which builds on scientific developments in the knowledge of the brain, body and organs and which goes through a number of both modern and ancient bodies of knowledge to demonstrate that depression is a symptom that other things at body level are unbalanced and need to be fixed.
The book begins by describing the different parts of the brain, the neocortex and limbic system. It explains that the neocortex is the most modern part of the brain where logical thinking is located whereas the limbic brain is much older, held in common with animals and much less structured in its composition. It is where emotions are located and it is wrapped around a much older part still, the reptilian brain where our oldest instincts, such as fight or flight instinct are located. This limbic brain governs not only our emotions but also our physiology, the working of the heart, blood pressure hormones, the digestive system and the immune system. Moreover its role is to keep the different functions in equilibrium.
The different chapters in the book focus on the brain’s natural healing ability to overcome depression and on techniques that enhance our ability to do so without analysis or chemicals. Instead the author proposes to access the natural mechanisms of self-healing through the body and postulates that depression is a symptom of an imbalance or ‘illness’ located in the body rather than a symptom of a ‘brain based’ disease.
The methods he goes through in detail include Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), heart rate coherence training, synchronization of chronobiological rhythms and artificial dawn, acupuncture, nutrition, exercise, emotional communication and the connection to a larger community.
The author builds his hypotheses around the work of Daniel Goleman, writer of Emotional Intelligence as well as more recent developments in neuro science.
One may well ask as how this connects with yoga teacher training. Maybe, the chapter, which is most relevant to yoga, is the information on developing heart coherence.
Servan-Schreiber describes how the heart has its own network of neurons, which act as a small brain in the body. In addition, the heart is a factory of hormones, which regulate blood pressure.
The author claims that the relationship between the limbic brain and the small heart brain is one of the keys to emotional mastery. He describes how to do this by developing heart coherence or a regular rhythm of variation in the heartbeat, by the use of a method not dissimilar to the use of pranayama (breathing exercises in yoga) and meditation.
For me that is the key relevance of the book to yoga teaching as it explains how to help people with depression through yoga. Moreover, the asanas in yoga are serious physical exercise and promote the connection to a larger whole, as such helping with fighting depression through persistent pleasurable interaction with people.
This book can be found on Amazon for interested parties: