Depression is one of the most common and devastating mental health problems that people face today.
Let’s face it. Americans are one of the most over-prescribed cultures in the history of mankind.
And when it comes to treatment of depression, the outlook is dim. Whether it be SSRIs like Prozac or stimulants like Provigil, there’s no shortage of drugs designed to ‘make us happy’.
While appropriate medical treatments are sometimes necessary in the management of depression, other practices like meditation and yoga can also help lessen the effects that depression has upon the body and mind.
As with any method of combating a depressive disorder, consistency is key; make sure you stick with your yoga routine for a few months in order to reap the full benefits of your practice. Take your time, and fully immerse yourself in the poses for maximum effectiveness.
Studies have indicated that practicing yoga helps to modulate the body’s stress response systems, consequently lessening some of the symptoms of depression. Yoga can also give your mood a boost and improve your ability to function and motivate yourself.
Yoga can calm and focus the mind, helping to soothe your mood and divert your attention away from negative thoughts. Let’s take a look at some of the best yoga poses for easing and managing the symptoms of depression.
Bridge Pose (Sethu Bandhasana)
The Bridge Pose is a good one for easing anxiety and mental stress, since it engages the spine, neck, and hips. Poor alignment can worsen your mood by placing added strain upon the nerves in the back and shoulders, which in turn can have negative effects upon your ability to manage anxiety disorders.
- To begin forming the Bridge Pose, lie flat on your back with your palms facing down.
- Bend your knees and rest your feet flat on the floor, bringing your feet as close to your buttocks as you can. Pay attention to your body’s limitations, and do not force any stretch to the point of straining your knees or other joints.
- Inhale and lift your hips off the floor. Bring your hands to meet underneath your body and lace your fingers together.
- Press down through your feet, arms, and shoulders to lift your hips further. Tense your inner thighs for support and aim to point your tailbone straight towards your knees.
- Hold this position for five to seven breaths. Exhale as you slowly and carefully lower your hips back down to the floor and release the posture.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
The Downward-Facing Dog Pose will help counteract the feelings of heaviness and fatigue that often come with depression.
This pose engages many different areas of the body, stretching them out and resulting in a more relaxed state. The neck and back in particular are engaged while practicing this pose, which increases blood flow and relaxes the areas of the body where people often carry their stress.
- 1. Begin on your hands and knees, with your knees separated as widely as your hips and your legs and feet pointing straight back. Your hands should meet the floor directly under your shoulders, with your fingers spread wide for the best stability.
- Walk your hands just slightly forward so that they’re in front of your shoulders, and then curl your toes under.
- Push up through your legs to lift your sitting bones upwards and straighten your legs as much as possible without locking them. Keeping the joints supple while going through your yoga routine is very important.
- Draw your shoulder blades together and lower your chest. Your ears should line up with your arms, your spine should be straight, and your body should form an inverted “V” shape.
- Hold this pose for five to seven breaths, then slowly bend your legs and exhale as you descend back to your hands and knees.
Child Pose (Balasana)
One of the most comfortable and relaxing yoga poses, the Child Pose provides a gentle stretch of the lower back and hip area. Practicing this pose can help relax and improve the alignment of your back, helping you decompress and easing your negative feelings.
Child Pose helps you to relax and release tension from your shoulders and upper torso, which are areas where people commonly carry their stress. Softening these areas of the body can help lessen the physical burden of depression.
- To begin this pose, start in a kneeling position with your knees hip width apart. Bring your feet together so that your big toes touch one another.
- Bend forward so that your torso lays down between your thighs, and reach your arms forward to rest the palms of your hands flat on the floor.
- Point your tailbone back and away from your pelvic area to stretch and straighten your spine. Settle your weight more completely onto your thighs.
- Let your forehead rest on the floor and relax your body. Let the weight of your arms gently spread your shoulder blades apart.
- Child Pose is a “resting pose”, so you can stay in this position for longer than you can hold the more active poses—several minutes if you like. When you are finished, bring your hands beneath your shoulders and slowly push up into a kneeling position to avoid straining your back.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
The Cobra Pose focuses on increasing flexibility in the spine, as well as opening and stretching the chest area of the torso. Since many people carry depressive feelings in the chest and back, stretching and releasing tension in these places can help to lessen some of the symptoms of depression and lift your mood.
- 1. To begin the Cobra Pose, lie face-down on the floor with your legs extended behind you. Do not curl your toes; rest the tops of your feet on the floor instead.
- Place your hands below your shoulders with your fingers spread wide and your palms pressed firmly into the floor. Keep your elbows very close to the sides of your body.
- Press down through the tops of your feet and your pubic bone, as well as through your hands. Inhale deeply and lift your chest and head away from the floor. Keep your pelvic area connected with the floor to ensure that you’re getting the best possible back bend.
- Pull your shoulders back to open your chest. Make sure you keep your shoulders dropped away from your ears to keep from scrunching or tensing your neck. If you are less flexible, look at the floor or straight ahead. If you feel ready to explore a deeper bend, lift your gaze towards the sky.
Corpse Pose (Shavasana)
The Corpse Pose is often used to finish off a yoga session in order to encourage your body to more fully absorb the benefits of your practice. It is the state of complete relaxation, both in mind and in body, and can do wonders to help ease feelings of depression and anxiety.
The full-body relaxation of this pose can provide you with an energy boost after its completion, which can be invaluable in the face of depression. Shavasana poses also have a ton of added health benefits for pregnant moms.
- To begin the Corpse Pose, lie flat on your back. Let your arms rest slightly away from the sides of your body where they feel most natural, and let the palms of your hands face upwards.
- Let your feet rest at a comfortable width apart (many people prefer hip width), and allow your feet to naturally turn outwards.
- Slowly begin to guide your focus to each part of your body, beginning with your feet and moving up through the various areas of your body. While you focus, breathe very slowly and deeply, willing each part of your body to relax.
- Move through each part of your body, breathing deeply and relaxing the area you're focusing on each time you exhale.
- Take your time, and surrender fully to the experience of being completely relaxed. Take care to maintain your mental focus and do not let yourself doze off.
- After around ten minutes, when you have completed the process of relaxing your entire body and taking in the state of calmness, keep your eyes closed and roll to one side. Let your body curl gently if it feels natural, and rest there for a minute.
- When you are ready, push your hand against the floor to carefully lift your body into a sitting position.
Depression is one of the most common mental health problems that people suffer from, but practicing yoga can help.
Yoga can help tame the body’s stress responses and help you keep control of your thoughts by giving your mind something to focus on.
Deep breathing and steady poses that stretch out your torso, spine, and hip areas can help relax muscles where you hold tension as a result of depression or anxiety.
With consistent practice of the yoga poses listed here, you can lessen the effects of depression by improving your posture, state of mind, and energy levels.