In today’s culture of pharmaceutical relief, antidepressants are the standard for easing depression and for many they can be a lifesaver. A lifestyle change can also work wonders and this should include the practice of yoga. Many yoga students have found relief from depression by consistently and patiently practicing Hatha yoga, pranayama (breathing) and meditation. Studies have also shown that by following a yoga practice you can significantly reduce stress and help to alleviate both anxiety and depression.
Perhaps you’ve experienced feelings of sadness and melancholy when life offers up challenges you are ill equipped to handle. Suddenly an invisible weight settles onto your shoulders and darkness depresses the vitality of your mind. One day you wake up, attempt to get up out of bed and realize that all the joy in living has gone, leaving you isolated on a barren island with no escape. Little by little you draw deeper into yourself, neglecting friends and family, food and exercise, seeking to stop the unbearable pain of living.
This type of tamasic condition (feelings of inertia) responds well to physical movement and deep breathing exercises. A Vinyasa flow style yoga class would be beneficial by opening the heart in backbends, lengthening the spine in forward bends, massaging organs and glands as the body revolves and twists, grounding the feet and challenging the mind to focus in balancing postures, then relaxing the mind in the final resting pose, Savasana (corpse pose).
On the other hand a rajasic condition is ruled by anxiety, fear and anger. The mind is constantly racing, while the body remains tense, restless and agitated. Burning off energy in a Power yoga style class may work for some, while others will respond better to a more relaxing, restorative style of yoga. Maintaining a focus of the eyes helps to take the mind off the constant tape loop of negative thinking. Here too, breathing exercises are an important part of lifting depression.
For many people it is a discovery to find that they are unconsciously holding their breath much of the time. According to Gary Kraftsow, author of Yoga for Wellness, the ancient yoga masters developed the practice of pranayama to help balance the emotions, clarify the mental processes and integrate them into a functioning whole. By regulating the flow of breath we can choose to stimulate or pacify our system as needed. This can take some time to learn, but should be integrated into your daily practice of yoga.
More and more people are beginning to see yoga as an approach to healing and doctors are beginning to recommend yoga as part of their treatment plan. However, it is important that you find a qualified yoga instructor who has been trained to assist students suffering from depression. One such therapeutic approach is Yoga Therapy, which refers to the adaptation and application of Yoga techniques and practices to help individuals facing health challenges. Yoga therapists adapt specific regimens of postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques to suit an individuals needs. Eastern concepts and techniques meets Western medical knowledge to restore balance to the mind, body and spirit.