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Happy Days Just Ahead! Yoga for Depression and Anxiety

treatment-for-depression-and-anxietyAccording 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!natural-remedies-for-depression-and-anxiety

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.

⇒ If you’re interested in online yoga classes, click here to read my review on YogaDownload.com ⇐

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.

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10 Comments

  1. Eric Cantu Eric Cantu

    Yoga just like meditation is such a calming and centering exercise it seems like a DEFINITE aid for something like depression. And even better it’s a natural alternative instead of just popping more pills. Great post!

    • Thank you Eric. However, I don’t think that antidepressants are terrible. Some people really do need them and for some it’s even necessary for their survival!

      However I do think that antidepressants are overprescribed for people who would actually get better simply by making major lifestyle changes and changes in thoughts, behaviours, and actions through therapy. In either case, whether someone is on antidepressants or not, yoga will make a positive difference.

  2. Maria Maria

    I enjoyed learning exactly which yoga might be helpful. I’m not depressed but I used to have anxiety attacks and know that my stress level is through the roof so anything to bring me back to center would be helpful. I am a total beginner but would like to learn, and it sounds like the Hatha Yoga would be a good place to start, I think? I would love to hear your opinion. Thanks!

    • I’m sorry to hear about your anxiety attacks Maria. I know how they’re not fun at all. As I mentioned in my post, Hatha Yoga would be a great place to start and suitable for all levels.

      A meditation practice is also great for stress management and it’s something to consider doing on top on your yoga practice. If you do both, that’s really great but if I were to choose one, I would start with yoga as it really chills your mind and body out.

  3. Aisha Aisha

    As someone interested in Mindfulness… I have picked some great insight from this post when comes to yoga. Thanks for sharing this insight… lots of notes taken

    Keep sharing.

    • I’m glad that you did Aisha! Have you also tried meditation as well? It really complements a yoga practice. 🙂

  4. Herman Herman

    This is very helpful information. In a very stressful environment one needs to be able to distance themselves from the noise of their mind, and to renew to a positive mind-set. I can see how yoga can help a person to cultivate such a mind-set. I also believe that faith will also enhance such a positive mind-set. For example, in the Bible, specifically in the book of Romans, we are instructed to be transformed by renewing our minds.

    I appreciate your post.

    • That’s an interesting perspective Herman. I have heard that faith helps people get through very difficult times. While yoga is not a religion, I have heard that it can sometimes deepens people’s faith. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Penny Penny

    Yoga (especially Hatha Yoga) has been a go-to for treating my own depression and anxiety for many years, now. As you say, it’s definitely a mood stabilizer. It’s nice to have a solution that isn’t in a costly bottle of poison. And I like that you are encouraging baby steps here, or even just practicing at home for a few minutes a day rather than in public classes for hours.

    • Wow! That’s great to hear that Hatha Yoga has been working so well for you!

      With depression and anxiety, baby steps are the key. While it’s good to push our limits, I don’t think it’s always beneficial to do so when struggling with depression and anxiety as it can make things worse and lead us to believing that we are “failures” for not being capable to keep up with others when that isn’t the point. The point is to make our journey to healing achievable TODAY.

      Also, yoga teaches us not to force any posture when it’s uncomfortable and painful. Does it doesn’t mean that we are failures when we can’t do these postures today? Of course not. I really love how Yoga teaches us to respect our limits and practice self-love and self-compassion which are keys for healing and growth.

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