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Depression and Yoga


Yoga is a useful practice whose postures may benefit those suffering from depression, and is suitable for all weights, shapes, sizes and levels of fitness. Read on to find out more.

What is Depression?

Depression, often referred to as clinical depression, is a mental illness that entails an overwhelming sense of sadness, loss and hopelessness. Bouts of the condition may span from weeks to years, and may sometimes cause the sufferer to despair so greatly they no longer want to live. Depression is generally caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, and may be triggered by a specific physical or emotional trauma.

The Practice of Yoga

Yoga is a term used to describe a collection of physical and mental practices that originated over five thousand years ago in India. The system is built upon three main principles: breathing, exercise and meditation. When practiced, all three put pressure on the glandular, muscular and endocrine systems of the body to encourage a better state of health and heightened state of self-awareness.

How Yoga Benefits Depression

From a yogic perspective, those suffering from depression lack the life force known as ‘prana’. Through a series of postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques, yoga aims to revitalize that life force, allowing the person to heal on all physical, mental and emotional levels.

Yoga also alleviates symptoms of depression by also taming the body’s stress response. It reduces the heart rate, eases blood pressure and regulates respiration. Yoga has been reported also in recent studies to improve overall mood, functioning and well being. Other studies demonstrated the effectiveness of controlled breathing on relieving symptoms of depression.

Yoga Poses for Depression

Certain poses directly reduce feelings of depression. Some of these include:

  • Sun Salutations: The more vigorous practice of sun salutations is thought to benefit Depression by preoccupying the mind with focus on the movement and breath and by helping the burn off of nervous energy.

  • The Lion Pose: The lion pose loosens the jaw and other clenched muscles, and functions to strengthen courage by releasing ones emotional load.

  • The Fish Pose: The fish pose opens the chest, which can often be a place of suppressed emotion and anxiety. It eases any tensions being held, and encourages deep breathing and relaxed feelings.

  • Childs Pose: This peaceful Asana involves stretching the lower back and arms, which relaxes the person and encourages a state in which one feels safe and secure.

  • Warrior I: This powerful Asana builds confidence and gives a certain sort of grounding other Asanas don’t offer, and builds both mental and physical Equilibrium within the person.

  • Corpse Pose: This pose involves lying on your back with your arms spread wide like a dead corpse. Through focus it aims to release any tension in the body, relaxing the person and giving them a stronger sense of clarity.


Some yogis believe that having a depressed student close their eyes in restorative poses (such as pranayama or meditation) may in fact be counterproductive, as it shifts the students focus inardly where they may get caught up in negative thoughts. Instead, depressed students may opt to sit up through Savasana and practice the poses with their eyes open.

A Last Word of Encouragement

Science has recently revealed mental and physical health to be equivalent in importance, making holistic practices like yoga the ideal low-risk, high-yield technique for improving overall health. If you are interested in trying yoga for depression, please speak to a professional yoga instructor or your local yoga studio for more information.

Find out about other effective natural depression treatments.



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