According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 6.7% of American Adults are affected by major depressive disorder. This means that 15.7 million adults suffer from this debilitating illness.
While both depression and major depression seriously affect quality of life, fortunately it’s a treatable illness. To overcome it, you need to find the right treatment plan for you whether it’s with medication, therapy and/or lifestyle changes.
In addition to medication and therapy, many doctors are prescribing yoga to patients. Not only is it an effective treatment for depression, it also works for insomnia and other mental and mood disorders as well.
If you haven’t tried yoga yet, it’s a must! It will really change your life as it did for me.
**Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a medical professional. If you suspect that you suffer or are suffering from depression or any other mental illness, you must consult with your doctor for your appropriate treatment plan.
Benefits of Yoga For Depression
- Lowers cortisol levels —the stress hormone
- Yoga rewires the brain
- Boosts serotonin and endorphins-—the happy chemicals in the brain
- Improves energy levels and pain tolerance
- Boosts self-esteem
- Promotes general well-being
- Influences and inspires you to adopt a healthier lifestyle
… So much more!
Can Yoga Cure My Depression?
While doing yoga alone cannot “cure” your depression instantly, it will significantly decrease the severity of your current symptoms with time and it will transform your life for the better (more on that further down the post).
You’ll become aware of your actions and the thoughts and patterns which affect your mood. Practicing yoga will clear your mind and change your brain chemistry for the positive: you’ll create new thought patterns, feel self-love and you’ll feel centered. Yoga is a natural mood stabilizer.
What About My Anxiety? Will Yoga Make Me Feel Less Anxious?
Depression often coincides with anxiety and yoga is very effective to manage it too.
The breath work in yoga slows down the mind chatter and the racing thoughts in your mind. Your whole nervous system calms down. You become aware of your breath and the now: the present moment.
And here’s the best part! At some point during your practice, there comes a moment where you feel hope and see light at the end of the dark tunnel. I know it sounds cliched, but you’ll feel inner peace awakening inside you. The past and the future are distant…you’re in the present totally connected and in tune with your self.
The Proof is in Science!
There have been many studies done on the effectiveness of yoga in treating depression. I remember reading one study about a group of clinically depressed patients participate in 3 yoga classes a week for 8 weeks.
By the end of this study, researchers found that severity of depression diminished so much that they actually would not have been qualified to participate in the study in the first place. Isn’t that incredible? You can read more research in an article from Harvard Medical School here.
Which Style of Yoga is Best for Depression and Anxiety?
Any breathing-based type of yoga is your best bet. But whatever makes you feel good is the one to stick to. Yoga is so adaptable and there are many styles to choose from that you’re bound to find your match! Also remember that finding the right teacher with whom you connect with also make a difference.
Here are some suggestions
- Hatha Yoga is a gentle style suitable for all levels so it’s perfect for beginners. In Hatha Yoga, controlled breathing is practiced in conjunction with asanas (postures) and at the end of the class you do Savasana— a deep and very rewarding relaxation exercise/meditation.
(*Savasana is the final restoration pose in almost all yoga styles)
- Vinyasa Yoga and Yoga Flow are faster-paced than Hatha Yoga and more dynamic with a focus on controlled breathing.
- Bikram or Hot Yoga (my personal favourite) is practiced in a heated room. As gross as this sounds, I feel soooo rejuvenated drenched in sweat after a hot yoga class.
- In some yoga classes, you’ll practice Pranayama (controlled breathing exercises). These techniques help you relax and clear the body and mind. They’re also effective to manage panic attacks. Click on the video to watch a Pranayama exercise in action.
If your depression limits you in such a way that you have a hard time getting out of the house, you can start practicing yoga at home with yoga dvds or online classes which are much more affordable, and you have the flexibility to try various styles all in the comfort of your own home. You don’t have to commit to practicing 1 hour immediately. Just be gentle with yourself and do what you can and build up from there.
Wow! Can you believe how empowering and healing yoga is?!
I hope that this article inspires you to start doing yoga on your journey to recovery from depression. As much as this chapter in your life is difficult and painful, know that this is only temporary and that you’re never alone. Do reach out to health professionals, a trusted friend, and family and take care of yourself!
I want to hear from you so that others feel hope!
How has yoga helped you in difficult times or when you were depressed?
Leave a comment or question below.
PS: I respond to all comments.