Depression affects around 121 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of disability among 15-to-44 year olds. Mary Watson of the Depression Alliance explains how yoga can benefit sufferers of this debilitating condition.
It’s common to feel the blues from time to time, and when this happens it can be healing to simply feel and be with your emotions.
Acute feelings of depression - for which medical advice should be sought - can be a sign that your body needs rest and your mind needs a break. Take a nap, read a book, let yourself be lazy and accept what you are feeling.
If you are experience mild-to-moderate depression for more than a few days, you may need to take action and work at moving through it. Yoga's regulating and energizing properties can help alleviate many of the symptoms.
The postures will activate and move prana (or breath) in the body, open the heart centre, stimulate the nervous system and balance the body-mind-spirit.
If you are mostly feeling frustration, use postures that open the insides of the legs (Bound Angle, Standing Angle) and stretch the sides of the torso (Half Circle, Half Moon).
For feelings of sadness and grief, focus on postures that open the chest and inner arms (fish, threading the needle, boat). For low motivation or low energy, try back and forward bending postures (Cobra, Forward Fold, Sun Salutations).
A slow, gentle practice is recommended; take care not to over-exert yourself or you may end up more tired than you began. Practice as often as possible; daily is ideal.
Other yogic exercises are very effective at moving through depression. Practice Kapalabhati Pranayama to energize the body and Nadi Sodhana Pranayama – both breathing techniques – to reduce stress and anxiety.
Meditation can also help: regular practice can reduces stress, calm the mind, reduce negativity and help create a positive attitude.
Note: Severe or chronic depression (over four weeks) needs to be treated by a medical professional. If you are having thoughts of suicide, get help immediately, calling 911 if necessary. A yoga practice should be used to supplement conventional therapy, not replace it.