How does yoga help with depression?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), depression is one of the most common mental health illnesses in the United States. It is an overpowering and ongoing mental health disorder that can drastically impact daily life.
A study in India found that a yoga program with asana, breathing techniques and meditation raised levels of serotonin and lowered levels of monoamine oxidase—two neurochemicals involved in depression. Also, a study published in Neuropsychiatry Journal (London), showed that specific yoga postures and breathing techniques can increase GABA – a neurotransmitter that plays a role in depression and anxiety. But, which yoga poses were proven most effective in helping with depression? A personal favorite—backbends!
Research shows again and again that breathing exercises can be an amazing enhancement to a yoga practice for people with depression, anxiety or both. For depression, a focus on the inhale draws life force into the body; for anxiety, it's best to focus on the exhalation, which promotes a calm, peaceful mind.
Aside from its physiological benefits, yoga also teaches awareness—a vital skill for people who struggle with depression. Through yoga, we can feel in a tangible way how the body and mind are connected. By building awareness of the body, we start to notice the content of our mind—which is half the process of making peace with it.
Along with other factors, depression often arises when a person tries to suppress or deny ‘negative’ feelings such as anger or sadness. However, when we learn to sit still in yoga or meditation, we become a container for our feelings. The trick is not to interact or identify with our feelings so that they can pass. Yoga teaches us that non-attached acknowledgment of our depression is the ultimate cure.
Namaste, Michelle Quiroga, LPC, RYT American Licensed Professional Counselor Registered Yoga Teacher (200 hr) Reiki Practitioner (Level II)
Can Yoga Treat Depression? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/conditions/depression/can-yoga-treat-depression
Ferretti, A. (2007, October 27). Feel Happier: Poses for Depression & Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/feel-happier
Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Yoga for anxiety and depression. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression