Mental health and illnesses like depression are still considered taboo to talk about, that’s exactly what has made depression a global crisis. WHO has already announced that depression will be leading to disability by the year 2030.
Lack of awareness, a wide variety of causes, some of which are still undiscovered, and improper treatment are the actual hurdles to combat depression.
However, practicing yoga for depression along with conventional treatment methods is found to be effective as a complementary therapy.
How yoga helps in depression
Yoga is a mind-body practice that involves physical postures, controlled breathing, and mental relaxation to uplift the overall well-being of the practitioner. That’s exactly something that a depressed person feels a lack of.
In such a depressive state, practicing easy poses of yoga brings some degree of activity to the body and rejuvenates cells. Above that, the breathing exercise of yoga, aka Pranayama, gives you better control over your emotions and meditation helps you regulate all those fluctuating thought patterns.
Depression is a mental disorder where the patient feels prolonged sadness, dullness, and surrounds oneself with negativity. Depression could arise due to a heartbreaking traumatic incident in the past, hormonal imbalance (especially in women), or elevated stress levels.
However, even if you cannot find a reason behind your depression, yoga could still be a breakthrough.
Therefore, benefits like improved blood circulation, hormonal balances, and stress reduction through yoga make it an all-around therapy to cure depression of its core.
10 Yoga Poses to Combat Depression
Yoga has been considered the safest long-term antidepressant. It works by uplifting the energy of the body and helps in coping with depression. Yoga is known to rejuvenate the nervous system and also boosts the secretion of the happy hormones naturally, unlike the medicinal approach that avails the soothing chemicals externally.
Thus involving the following yoga poses will surely come in handy for anyone who is going through depression as well as for anyone to stay happy, positive, and fulfilled in all the ups and downs of the body.
1. Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Beginning yoga for depression with a reclining bound angle pose seems a good idea as it is practiced lying in a relaxed supine position. From there, join the soles of the feet and let the knees drop on the sides of the floor.
This posture is a heart-opener that energizes the entire body. It stretches the groins and opens the hips, thereby relieving fatigue, and calming the mind. Hence, it works as a great stress buster alleviating depression.
How to do:
Lie down on your back keeping the legs bent and feet on the floor.
Bring the soled of the feet together and let the knees drop to the sides.
Place your arms by the sides or place on hand over the belly and other to the chest.
Keep your back erect and shoulders relaxed and stay there for two to five minutes.
2. Plow Pose
To assume a plow pose, you need to lie down on your back followed by lifting the legs and extending them beyond your head rolling on the back.
This stretches the entire spine and neck, relieving any stress. It calms the mind and helps in depression improving its symptoms. It reduces stress levels, provides sound sleep, and helps in getting relaxing effects to the mind.
How to do:
Lie down on your back, relaxing the shoulders and keeping the arms by the sides.
Lift both legs off the floor at a 90-degree angle.
Place your hands over your hips to support the back and to enhance the push to the legs.
By rolling on your back, extend the legs beyond your head until the toes touch the floor.
Stay in this pose breathing normally for 30-60 seconds, keeping the eyes closed.
3. Bridge Pose
Practicing Bridge pose benefits the entire body head-to-toe. It is practiced by balancing the body on the feet and shoulders while raising the hips and back off the floor.
It opens the heart as well as improves the blood flow to the brain clearing the mental blocks and fueling positivity within the stressed or depressed person.
How to do:
Lie on your back, bending the knees and keeping the feet hip-width apart on the floor.
Keep your arms by your sides with palms facing the floor.
Press your feet on the floor to lift your hips off the floor, followed by lower back and middle back.
In the final posture, the head. Shoulders, arms, and feet remain on the floor.
While Balancing the body on feet and shoulders tuck your chin to your chest gently.
Hold this pose for 30-60 seconds, breathing gently.
4. Knee-to-Chest Pose
The Knee-to-chest pose is exactly what the name suggests, here the practitioner hugs the knees to the chest while lying on the back. It stretches the spine and provides massaging effects.
The stretch on the neck and spine provides relaxing effects to the nervous system. It helps alleviate stress and improves the circadian cycle that often gets upset in depression.
How to do:
Lie down on your back, bending the knees and placing the feet on the floor.
Gently lift your feet off the floor, taking the bent knees towards the chest.
Interlace your fingers around the shins, hugging the knees to the chest.
While keeping the knees close to the chest, roll on your back from side to side massaging the back on the floor.
Stay in this pose for 5-10 deep breaths.
5. Extended Puppy Pose
The puppy pose is assumed by lowering the forehead to the floor and raising the buttocks while keeping the knees and forearms on the floor. It stretches the neck and opens the shoulders while relaxing the body and helping the practitioner to be there in the moment.
This is another pose for your yoga sessions intended to fight back depression as it rushes oxygen to the brain. This calms the mind and invigorates the body, relieving any stress, anxiety, or panic attacks.
How to do:
Begin assuming the tabletop position and then walk your palms in the front, placing the elbows on the floor under the shoulders.
Now, walk your knees a step backward.
Inhale to lift your head to look forward.
Spread your fingers wide on the floor and exhale to surrender your forehead to the floor and simultaneously push the hips back.
Stay there for 5-10 deep, slow breaths.
6. Standing Wide-legged Forward Fold
This pose is practiced while standing, keeping the legs wide apart and bending forward at the hips – taking the crown of the head to the floor. It lengthens the entire spine and melts all mental and physical tensions away.
This is quite a therapeutic posture to help with depression by relaxing the nervous system and relieving any stressful sensations in the body and mind. It fills the heart with satisfaction and joy by enhancing the secretion of happy hormones and improves the functioning of your neurotransmitters.
How to do:
Take a stance separating legs wide apart and placing the hands on the waist.
Swing your arms to take them behind the back and interlace the fingertips.
Inhale, stretch the arms backward, lift your head and open your chest.
Exhale to bend forward keeping the back integrity intact and taking the crown of the head to the floor.
Release your hands and place the palms on the floor, hanging the head and neck muscles between the arms.
Hold it for 20-30 seconds breathing deeply.
7. Bow Pose
Assuming bow pose requires you to lie down on your belly while raising the head and backward bent legs off the floor. The arms are extended backward to lift the feet up while holding the pose.
In Bow pose the backward bent body is balanced on the abdomen, compressing the core muscles and navel region. It stimulates the solar plexus which helps in recharging your energy. It regenerates the willpower in your subconscious self and brings a sense of security and calm thus serves as an efficient yoga pose for depression.
How to do:
Lie down on the floor in a prone position with the arms by the sides.
Bend your knees to bring the feet towards the hips.
Extend your arms backward to grab the ankles.
Inhale to raise your head off the floor.
Simultaneously pull your legs upwards to come into a backbend and balance the body on the core.
Stay in this pose for 10-30 seconds, breathing deeply.
8. Sphinx Pose
This is an easier modification of the cobra pose that helps in assuming a backbend while keeping the forearms on the floor and lifting the head, chest, and abdomen.
Sphinx pose is a heart-opening pose, which involves a slight backbend. Because of this, it stimulates the heart chakra and helps in coping with any emotional stress. It uplifts the self-esteem within the practitioner and helps in inculcating a positive outlook towards life, hence helps in combating depression.
How to do:
Lie down on your belly, placing your chin on the floor.
Place your forearms beside the head stacking the elbows under the shoulders.
Inhale and press the forearms on the floor, lift the chin, chest, and abdomen.
Also, stretch the legs backward and hold the pose for 5-10 breaths looking up.
9. Downward-Facing Dog Pose
This well-known pose is assumed inverting the torso along with keeping the feet on the floor. It stretches the entire spine and legs while forming an inverted V-shape on the floor.
The down-dog pose helps in improving blood flow to the brain that reactivates the neurotransmitters which are low in those dealing with depression. Also, due to enhanced blood circulation, the mind gets recharged and the body feels energized while low and dull feelings fade away.
How to do:
Begin coming to your all fours.
Curl your toes in and inhale, pressing your palms on the floor to lift the knees and raise the hips towards the ceiling.
Push your hips backward to drop the heels to the floor and lower your head between the arms.
Breathe deeply and smoothly in this pose for 5-20 breaths.
10. Corpse Pose
Corpse pose is practiced by lying on the back and relaxing the entire body from head to toe. Focusing on the breath and sensation in the body helps in being in the moment.
It is always recommended at the end of your yoga for depression sequence as it rejuvenates the body and leaves a sense of relaxation. Along with the relaxing effects on the body and mind, the corpse pose gives a chance to assimilate the effects of other poses to overcome depression.
Corpse Pose majorly helps in coping with depression because it helps with stress and also inculcates the feeling of letting go. As a 2105 study, Yoga and Mental Health: A Review (hilarispublisher.com) has proved the efficiency of corpse pose in experiencing complete peace and improving mental health.
How to do:
Lie down comfortably on your back, relaxing the shoulders and taking the arms slightly away from the body.
Keep your palms facing upwards and your feet slightly apart from each other.
Relax your facial muscles and entire body.
Gently close your eyes and focus on your long, deep breaths.
Yoga poses for depression are not something that only depressed patients can perform. These are a series of poses that everyone should be practicing by now, as it is a need of the hour to keep pace in today’s lifestyle, setting mental health as a priority.
Keep practicing yoga to lead a fulfilling and prosperous life with this series of yoga for depression moves. Try it for yourself and experience the healing properties of yoga and get your life back on track with just a few weeks of continuous practice.=
Have you tried yoga for depression? Let us know how it went in the comments below and if you have any other tips for naturally overcoming depression let u know that too. Namaste.
Ashish is a 200-hour yoga alliance certified teacher. He also loves to read about the traditional healthcare system, philosophy, and novels. He is a yoga teacher in fitsri, and also writes about yoga and wellness research. His aim is to provide awareness about yoga and its enormous benefits through teaching and writing. For more information, please visit: Fitsri.com