Using Yoga to Alleviate Depression - A Complete Guide

Yoga is an ancient practice that brings together mind and body. It incorporates breathing exercises, meditation and poses that are designed to encourage relaxation and reduce stress. Practicing yoga is said to come with many benefits for both mental and physical health. In fact multiple studies have shown how drastically yoga has helped people with depression, stress and various other physical ailments relating to posture, eating habits and lifestyle. A lot of studies have been conducted on the effects of  yoga. A lot of them have shown its effectiveness in decreasing the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. Another study showed the powerful effect of yoga by making a group of people who perceived themselves as emotionally distressed, follow a yoga program. As a result they had significantly lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression.

Yoga as popularly known as an excellent option for preventing diseases and staying healthy is also a great option for people with unorganized lifestyle, especially in the metro cities. A few minutes of yoga daily can be a great way to get rid of stress, both in body and mind. Yoga postures, pranayama, and meditation are effective techniques for detoxifying and re-energizing the body.

Yoga is of much need for lifestyle related disorders also because stress affects the body in various ways, from mood swings and headaches to weight fluctuations and ailments like hypertension. Further, an often overlooked side effect of stress is back pain. One’s personal health beliefs and coping strategies can influence both their  level of distress and course of the pain. For instance, if one is anxiety-prone, overthinks, and have catastrophic thinking, this can make the pain far worse. That’s because those psychological vulnerabilities can change the brain chemistry and intensify the pain. Pain itself can rewire the brain. When pain first occurs, it impacts the pain-sensitivity brain circuits. But when pain lasts, the related brain activity switches away from the “pain” circuits to circuits that process emotions. That’s why emotions like anxiety often take center stage in chronic back pain. This is why emotional control becomes that much more difficult. When a person is stressed, his/her breathing patterns change and cause strain and tension in the mid-back. The shoulders hunch up and cause pain throughout the upper and middle back. In addition to it, cortisol, the stress hormone, interferes with a variety of  functions. Elevations in cortisol can lead to loss of muscle mass and increases in fat accumulation.

At this level, yoga comes handy as it involves different poses, breathing exercises that indulge several body parts at one particular time. Although Yoga alone is a powerful method to combat silemts, the combination of meditation and physical movement provide two important elements for relieving ardent ailments. Meditation helps bring a person into the present moment and allows them to clear their minds. Controlled, focused movements also help strengthen the body-mind connection. Hatha yoga, the most common type of yoga practiced popularly combines three elements: physical poses, called asanas; controlled breathing practiced in conjunction with asanas; and a short period of deep relaxation or meditation. By integrating stretching, strengthening, and balancing exercises, yoga for depression offers one of the best methods for elevating one’s mood.

Studies have illustrated yoga’s ability to combat depression through balancing brain chemistry and stress hormone levels. Through a regular yoga routine, we can pull ourselves out of the pit of depression and rise once more to enjoy vitality and inspiration in our day-to-day lives.

Serotonin production plays a role in the treatment of depression. Serotonin is believed to play a major role in happiness. As an exercise, yoga is known to be a natural way to increase serotonin production. Yoga also increases your heart rate variability, or change in time between heart beats, by increasing the relaxation response over the stress response in the body. A high HRV means that your body is better at self-monitoring or adapting, particularly to stress. By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. There are a lot of poses that can reduce some symptoms of stress such as tensed muscles, insomnia etc. one may want to try the dolphin, bridge, or extended puppy pose for back pain. The corpse pose, in which one completely relaxes flat on your back, can help sleep issues.  Gradually trying more complicated poses or asanas such as supported headstand or the supported shoulder stand can boost ones concentration. It can also be a great way to measure improvement.

One of the main benefits of incorporating yoga as a treatment for depressive disorders is that the combination of non-pharmacological involvement has the advantage of avoiding additional drug side effects and drug interactions while improving clinical outcomes. 

Many patients dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, yoga may be a very appealing way to better manage symptoms. The scientific study of yoga shows that mental and physical health are not just closely related, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.

Poses like chair shoulderstand, viparita dandasana, supported bridge pose combines several depression-fighting elements for extra potency. Since depression is exhausting, people suffering from it might find too much to go to a yoga class to follow a routine and a home practice may be a more realistic daily goal. So here are some yoga poses one can easily practice at home.

  1. Urdhva Hastasana

Urdhva Hastasana literally translates to "Raised Hands Pose," also known as the upward salute pose and to practice this pose one has to stand in tadasana first, which is just standing with the arms turned outward so that the palms are facing away from the torso and thumbs pointing backward. Now one has to inhale to bring his/her  arms out to the sides and up toward the ceiling. The arms have to be parallel and straight and the hands active all the way through the fingertips. Take the gaze (drishti) up toward the thumbs. While doing this the shoulders must  not be hunched shoulders must be away from your ears, and shoulder blades must be pressed firmly on the back.  Now lower the arms to release the pose.


  1. Sirasana

Commonly known as a headstand, It's also one of the more difficult poses to master This post requires long hamstrings, flexible spine and shoulders, and solid upper body strength.

Now to practice this you have to Get on hands and knees with the wrists under the  shoulders and knees under the  hips. Bring the forearms to the floor, keeping the elbows directly under the shoulders. Clasp each hand around the opposite elbow. Adjust as needed to ensure the elbows are the right distance apart. Release the hands from your elbows. Clasp the hands together on the floor, interlacing fingers Place the crown of the  head on the floor. The very top of the head should be down—neither too far forward nor back. Back of the head will rest at the bases of thumbs rather than hands holding your skull. Lift your hips and straighten your legs carefully walk your feet in toward your head until your hips are as close to over your shoulders as possible. now Lift the right foot to bring the right knee to the chest. Take a few deep breaths. When steady, inhale and engage the core muscles. In a slow, controlled, movement exhale as you lift your left foot and bring it to your chest alongside right side .Breathe deeply and keep the core engaged for as long as one remain in the headstand pose.

  1. Anuloma Viloma or Nadi Shodhana

Which can also be described as Alternate Nostril Breathing, breath is known as the bridge between the conscious and unconscious mind therefore by doing prayanamas one can escape the cyclical nature of stress. A breathing exercise that focuses on longer exhalations than inhalations or a breathing exercise that brings down the breath count per minute can be super helpful to relieve stress How to do it:Place right hand in Vishnu Mudra by folding the index and middle fingers inward toward your palm

Bring the right hand toward your face and rest your thumb lightly on right nostril and  ring and pinky fingers lightly on the left nostril

Close the right nostril with a thumb, and breathe out completely through the left nostril. Inhale for a count of four through the left nostril Close the left nostril with ring and pinky fingers so that both nostrils are now closed, Hold the breath for a count of eight Keeping the left nostril closed, release the right nostril and exhale completely for a count of eight With the left nostril closed, inhale through your right for a count of four. Close both nostrils and hold the breath for a count of eight. Keeping the right nostril closed, release the fingers from your left nostril and breathe out completely for a count of eightThis completes one full round. Continue this exercise for five to 10 minutes. a count of four for the inhalation, a count of eight for the retention, and a count of eight for the exhalation.

  1.  Paschimottanasana

 Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend helps to distract the mind and unwind the hamstrings. paschimottana means intense stretch of the west. Paschima means west and uttana means intense stretch. To practice this asana one has to Sit on the floor with buttocks supported on a folded blanket and legs straight in front. Draw the inner groins deep into the pelvis. Inhale, and keeping the front torso long, lean forward from the hip joints, not the waist. Lengthen the tailbone away from the back of the pelvis.  Now take the sides of the feet with hands, thumbs on the soles, elbows fully extended, if one finds this difficult. One can always loop a strap around the foot soles, and hold the strap firmly. Be sure the elbows are straight, not bent. 

Yoga is a fairly new treatment or practice utilized for more than mind-body fitness in the West. In fact, yoga is being used more and more as an alternative form of treatment for improving many increases body awareness, relieves stress, reduces muscle tension, strain, and inflammation, sharpens attention and concentration, and calms and centers the nervous system. Yoga's positive benefits on mental health have made it an important practice tool of is a mind-body practice that combines physical poses, controlled breathing, and meditation or relaxation. Yoga is an excellent option for people suffering from depression