Yoga for depression – Is Yoga a good natural remedy for depression?

Is Yoga a good natural remedy for depression?

Have you tried using yoga for depression? Those struggling with depression know that unfortunately there is no cure-all for mental health issues. Mental health, like a yoga practice, requires constant commitment.

Although there is no panacea for mental health issues, yoga is a magnificent tool in combatting depression and mental instability.


Yoga for depression

So can you use yoga for depression? Here’s a list of ways in which we think yoga can help with depression….


1) Exercise

One of the first things your psychiatrist might recommend when you’re diagnosed with depression is exercise.

Exercise helps calm the immune and nervous systems, both parts of the body that are hit hard by depression.

The Mayo Clinic has also found that regular exercise releases feel good chemicals in the brain like neurotransmitters and endorphins, while helping people gain confidence and develop healthy coping mechanisms.


Regular yoga practice

Developing healthy habits and routines is an important part of managing your depression. A regular yoga practice can be a great asset to this routine and help you get out of the house on those days where being in public just seems like too much.

Not ready to leave the house? Try some poses at home.

Legs Up the Wall Pose is a relaxing pose that’s perfect for just before bed. It’s believed to calm the central nervous system, making it a great choice if you also struggle with anxiety.

Hip openers like Pigeon Pose and Child’s Pose are also said to be beneficial for depression.

Another common side effect of depression is body aches.

Poses like Downward Facing Dog, Forward Fold, and Reverse Warrior Pose can bring deep stretches to the body that help to relieve these mysterious aches and pains.


2) Elevated Mood

Yogis for centuries have reported feeling happier after practicing yoga, but is there clinical research to support this theory?

A 2005 German study examined 24 women who were in “emotional distress.” The women in the group who began participating in twice weekly yoga classes reported an average of a 50% increase in mood, a 30% decrease in anxiety, and a 65% increase in overall wellbeing.

Another study aimed at analyzing the short term effects of yoga found that patients surveyed at a psychiatric hospital had lower levels of depression, anxiety, and fatigue immediately following yoga class.

If you want to challenge yourself to get outside of your comfort zone and have a great time doing it, you should try Laughter yoga (Hasyayoga). It’s pretty self explanatory, you just get in a circle and laugh.

Some people report feelings of euphoria and amazing emotional release. You may feel silly doing it at first, but laughter is the best medicine, right?


3) Better Sleep

There’s no question that there is a link between depression and insomnia. Difficulty falling asleep is one of the biggest signs of clinical depression that psychiatrists look for.

Unfortunately, the relationship between depression and insomnia creates a vicious cycle. A lack of sleep exacerbates depression and increases anxiety, mood swings, and irritability, which in turn makes it more difficult to fall asleep at night.

Psychiatrists often recommend regular exercise to people who are having trouble falling asleep.


Yoga can improve sleep quality

Studies on people with insomnia (including insomnia caused by depression) have found that yoga in particular helps people fall asleep, improves sleep quality, and reduces fatigue.

Getting a good night’s sleep can be the first step in reducing the anxiety and irritability that are so often associated with depression.

If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, try Supine Spinal Twist or Reclined Bound Angle Pose to calm the nervous system.

Spending a few moments in meditation focusing on your breath is also a great way to get ready for sleep.


4) Self-Esteem

Yogis often report feeling increased self-confidence or body acceptance through their yoga practice. Yoga and yoga instructors encourage students to love and accept themselves and their bodies.

Depression, on the other hand, thrives in an environment of self-doubt and low-self esteem. In fact, depression is often accompanied and exacerbated by body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and low self-worth.

Through yoga you’ll learn to love and appreciate your body for all that it does for you. Yoga can help to look at your body and see a finely tuned machine, rather than body issues.


Find your spiritual self

For those who are spiritual, yoga can help turn your attention to your spiritual self, which deemphasizes preoccupation with the physical body.

Because of the focus and confidence required to execute balancing poses, they are often recommended for people working on developing their sense of worth and self-esteem.

Try adding balancing poses like Tree Pose or Warrior III into your routine. As an added bonus, these poses are a great workout for your abs! Yogis who are too critical with themselves can also try practicing in front of a mirror while repeating self loving mantras to themselves.


5) Compassion

When we’re struggling with our mental health, relationships can suffer and it can be hard to remember to be compassionate, not just towards others, but also towards ourselves.

Depression is a disease that alienates people and isolation makes depression so much worse.

When you’re struggling with depression, it can seem like you’re too irritable to be around people and even if you wanted to spend time with others, your self-worth is often too low to do so.

Yogic teachings remind us that every human is undergoing their own journey, helping us to be more compassionate towards everyone.


Connection and oneness of all people

At the end of each yoga class we say, “Namaste,” which essentially recognizes the connection and oneness of all people.

This affirmation of connection is a perfect way to stick it to that inner voice that wants to keep you isolated!

Perhaps most importantly when struggling with depression, yoga can help you become more compassionate towards yourself. Depression loves to tell you about all of the things that you’ve done wrong.

Yoga helps to combat that voice with self-love. When doing yoga for depression it is self-care on a spiritual and physical level and your depression is terrified of self-care.

Although difficult, developing the tools to face irritability and low self-esteem with love is an important step towards managing your moods and gaining control of your depression.


6) Improved Diet

While doing yoga, your awareness will be focused on your body. How does this stretch feel? How does your body react to this pose? Is your posture perfectly aligned?

After doing yoga for a few months, this bodily awareness will come with you off the mat and into the world. You’ll start noticing how your back feels when you wake up in the morning or whether you’re slouching behind your desk.

An amazing benefit of this increased bodily awareness is you’ll also pay more attention to how foods affect your body.

After spending an hour and a half sweating it out in a yoga class, the last thing you’ll want to do is chow down on something harmful for your health and body.

Gradually, you might notice that you start craving nutrient dense foods and that your body stops wanting things that are less beneficial for you.

It’s no wonder so many yogis are also amazing chefs!


Diet can affect your mental health

If you’re struggling with depression, you should be aware that your diet does affect your mental health. One clinical trial out of Deakin University in Australia found that even severe depression can be improved with changes to diet.

Half of the participants in the study went on a healthy Mediterranean diet, while the other half continued their existing behaviors.

The diet change was so successful that 32% of those on the Mediterranean diet did not even meet criteria for depression after 12 weeks!

Many people also suffer from SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a condition that causes depression because of a lack of vitamin D in the winter.

If you’re suffering from SAD you may feel chronic exhaustion, moodiness, depression, and changes in appetite.

SAD is a serious condition, so don’t let it go overlooked!

Doctors recommend eating foods high in Vitamin D like almond milk, fresh fish, tofu, oatmeal, and yogurt. Foods high in healthy fats are also said to be beneficial for your mood. Try adding walnuts, avocados, acai, and flaxseeds into your diet.

For a truly yogic approach to diet and depression, read up on ayurveda.

Ayurveda is the yogic science of nutrition, healing, and wellness. An ayurvedic practitioner near you can help you tailor a diet to your body, lifestyle, and symptoms.


Give it a Chance

It’s clear from a scientific as well as a spiritual perspective that even one yoga class can have positive effects on those struggling with depression and accompanying symptoms.

When you’re facing your depression, it can be hard to motivate yourself to try new things.

If you’re feeling too self conscious to do yoga in public, try developing even a short home practice.

Even 10 minutes a day can make a difference.

Take the leap by trying yoga; you have nothing to lose and peace of mind to gain.


15 min yoga for depression exercise

This fantastic easy to follow yoga for depression video from Adriene is a short 15 min yoga practice to help balance & restore both.

With a focus on breathing this yoga practice invites you to heal naturally.


Let Us Know

Let us know if you have used yoga for depression? did it help? Any advise, thoughts or positive vibes you can offer our other readers about using yoga for depression, we’d love to hear in the comments below….

Kosta Miachin

Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method - a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him online:

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