Yoga and Depression

12 November 2012

Much of the suffering due to depression can be relieved with simple yoga practice.

Nearly everyone experiences depression at some time or another. And when it does occur, there are those rare individuals, who are able to work through it, but for most of us it’s a battle and we easily succumb to denying it.

Oftentimes when we deny depression, it shows up in our bodies as physical symptoms such as aches and pains that seem to rise out of nowhere and often recede when we receive some form of treatment. It is also quite common for many of us to not recognize the extent our depression until the people we love and care about don’t want to be around us anymore, or someone who loves us reminds us that there is a natural way to feel better.

It is a well proven fact that a slow, gentle yoga practice, one that also includes some dynamic movements and energizing breathing exercises, works best to alleviate the symptoms of depression. Most people will benefit by beginning slowly in seated meditation, focusing on the breath, and “scanning” both their physical body and their emotional body before determining the type of practice they need. They then gradually begin to deepen their breath, expanding their lungs with Dirga Pranayama (Yogic three-part breath). In addition they may also hold a posture like the Tadasana (Mountain) pose or Virabhadrasana (Warrior) pose, prompting them to witness, with patience and awareness, all the feelings they are experiencing in their physical body and their emotional body, without the normal reaction that could feed the depression.

Holding the poses for a length of time gives one an opportunity to notice the places in the body where energy is blocked, places where emotion, even trauma is stored. Unaddressed these energy blocks eventually lead to symptoms and then manifest as illness, both physical and mental. When focusing the breath and the awareness where the sensations are the strongest, a process has begun which allows energy to flow through these areas of the body where they feel blocked. Accordingly, as we hold a yoga pose, not only is there an emotional clearing as the pose is released, there’s a physical cleansing of the lymphatic system.

For some people, especially those whose depression is accompanied by anxiety, they may find that a more active practice is required to meet their mood head-on. Someone suffering from anxiety will probably feel impatient with a slow, steady practice. They might need to start with a more dynamic and vigorous session, and then slow the movements down as the anxiety lessens. The ultimate beauty of yoga is that anyone, at any level or condition, can practice it. With proper instruction, there’s an appropriate practice for everybody, even someone who may be impaired by injury or disease.

All the various tools of yoga, not only the postures, but also yogic breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation techniques, plus the use of mantra and/or affirmations, are meant to bring balance to both the physical as well as the emotional body. If someone can’t stand on their head, they can instead stand straight with her arms over their head, taking long, deep breaths in mountain pose. And even if they’re unable do any kind of movement, they can still learn a simple breath (like the Yogic Three-Part Breath) that studies have shown even that calms the mind and elevates the mood.

Discover Yoga for yourself – today…

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