Depression is a common and severe medical condition that has a negative impact on how you feel, think, and act. It is, however, curable. Depression results in emotions of unhappiness and/or a loss of interest in previously cherished activities. It can cause a number of mental and physical issues, as well as a reduction in your capacity to operate at work and at home (1).
Feeling sad or depressed is one of the most common depression symptoms, which can vary from mild to severe (1).
- Appetite changes such as weight loss or increase that aren’t connected to dieting
- Feeling worthless or remorseful
- Increased involuntary physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing, and handwringing) or slower movements or speech (these actions must be severe enough to be observable by others)
- Increased weariness or a loss of energy
- Loss of interest or pleasure in previously appreciated activities
- Sleeping difficulties or excessive sleep
- Suicide or death thoughts
- Think, concentrate, or make conclusions with difficulty
According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability globally. This can affect adults, adolescents, and children. Depression is a common disease that affects 3.8 percent of the world’s population, with 5.0 percent of adults and 5.7 percent of persons over 60 years old suffering from depression. Around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Depression is distinctive from normal mood swings and short-term emotional responses to everyday challenges. Depression can be risky to one’s health, especially if it is persistent and has a moderate or severe intensity. It can make the person who is affected suffer severely and perform poorly at the job, school, and in the family. Depression can lead to suicide in the worst-case scenario. Every year, around 700,000 people die by suicide. Suicide is the fourth highest cause of death among those aged 15 to 29 (2).
Relation Between Depression & Yoga – How Yoga can help with Depression
According to studies presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, those who suffer from depression may want to consider yoga as a supplement to established therapies because the practice appears to reduce depressive symptoms (3).
Yoga Beneficial for People with Clinical Depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a “depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure for over two weeks;” this affective experience differs from the person’s normal mood (APA, 2000, p. 356) (4).
Additionally, people with MDD have five or more symptoms that cause severe impairment in their social or work life, as well as other essential aspects of their lives. Weight loss or gain, fatigue, sleeplessness or oversleeping, poor concentration, psychomotor agitation or retardation, low self-esteem, feelings of failure, or persistent thoughts of death are all possible symptoms (4).
Yoga can be an effective supplemental treatment for clinical depression or major depressive disorder. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 2019 found Participants’ sleep quality improved dramatically after just one month of practicing yoga. Physical weariness, as well as anxiety and depression symptoms, decreased, while calmness and positivity improved (5).
Yoga Beneficial for Depressed Women
Depression is the most common psychiatric condition, affecting up to 25% of women and 12% of men at some point in their lives. Depression is expected to become the main cause of disability worldwide over the next 20 years (6).
The journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine published research in 2016 that compared mindfulness-based yoga versus walking as an alternative treatment for depression. Many studies have found that physical activities such as walking can help to alleviate depression symptoms. However, when researchers looked at two groups of women with depression, one who walked and the other who practiced mindfulness-based yoga, they discovered that the yoga group had greater results after 12 weeks. While both groups improved their symptoms, the mindfulness-based yoga group reported considerably reduced levels of rumination (which can lead to depression) after the trial was completed (7).
Yoga Helpful for Women with Depression-Related Illnesses Such As Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, Postpartum Depression, And Postmenopausal Psychological Distress
Women are more likely than males to present with internalizing symptoms, whereas men are more likely to present with externalizing symptoms. In one study of dizygotic twins, for example, women were more sensitive to interpersonal ties, whilst men were more sensitive to external professional and goal-oriented factors. Women also suffer from depression-related illnesses such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, postpartum depression, and postmenopausal psychological distress, all of which are linked to ovarian hormone fluctuations and may contribute to increased morbidity in women. However, because the underlying mechanisms are unknown, no therapies customized to women have been discovered (8, 9).
Yoga Helpful For High-Risk Pregnancy Mothers Who Likely To Suffer From Depression
Pregnant ladies who are placed on bedrest owing to high-risk pregnancies are more likely to suffer from depression. Women on bedrest face a variety of stress, including social isolation, lack of activity, dullness, and physical health concerns, all of which can lead to emotional stress. Treatment for depression in this demographic can be difficult, as medication may not be a viable option. Yoga has been shown to be useful to women on bed rest in studies. In a study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice in 2020, researchers discovered that as few as three sessions were effective in lowering anxiety and despair in high-risk pregnant women on bed rest (10).
Yoga Beneficial for Alcohol Or Drug Addiction Recovering Individuals
Depression and anxiety are frequent among those who have entered rehab for an alcohol or drug addiction. Yoga has been shown in studies to be a promising therapy option. Yoga dramatically lowered both anxiety and depression in adults in a rehabilitation facility, according to a 2011 study published in Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. The influence of yoga on the body, particularly the neurological system and numerous hormones, appeared to be important in lowering participants’ symptoms, according to the study. Researchers concluded that yoga is prescribed to people recovering from addiction as a supplemental treatment that can help medication and counseling work even better (11).
Yoga Beneficial for Children And Adolescents who Suffering from Depression
Unfortunately, children, like adults, can develop depression. If one’s child is suffering from childhood depression, it’s time to consider what parents can do to help. The most common physical problems in depressed children are stomach aches and headaches. Getting depressed children & youngsters into the habit of practicing certain exercises or yoga could help them cope with the symptoms of depression.
Yoga Helpful for Children And Adolescents With Disrupted Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)
DMDD is a new disorder in DSM-5, with the core phenomenology of frequent and severe verbal and/or behavioural outbursts (in reaction to typical stresses) that are pervasive, occur outside of the developmental period, and occur in the context of a chronic negative mood. The onset is between the ages of 6 and 10. The diagnosis is based on studies into severe mood dysregulation and irritability, as well as observations of bipolar disorder and irritability’s shared phenomenology (Leibenluft 2011). It is classified as a depressive disorder since longitudinal follow-up data predicted the formation of depressive disorders (rather than bipolar disorder) both in a 2-year follow-up (Stringaris et al. 2010) and a 20-year follow-up (Stringaris et al. 2009) (12).
Researchers examined the effectiveness of depression for managing depressed symptoms in children and youngsters. They discovered that yoga has somewhat a positive effect on depression symptoms outcomes but are not fully convinced yoga is an alternate therapy for this depressive disorder. However, many more interventions in this area are required to completely study and comprehend the impact of yoga on depression (12, 13).
Meditation Helps With Depression In Older Adults
According to a study published in 2016, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, a type of psychotherapy that integrates mindfulness meditation practises, can help you avoid relapsing into depression (14).
Neurology published online research of 1,111 patients (average age 71) on May 9, 2018. It was discovered that persons with more depressive symptoms had poor episodic memory. Around 20% of persons 65 and older suffer from depression. The most common first-line therapies for depression are antidepressants and psychotherapy. Depression affects roughly 20% of persons 65 and older, and it can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and illness-related death. Meditation has been shown to alter certain brain areas that are associated with depression. Scientists have discovered that in depressed persons, the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) becomes overactive. The mPFC is known as the “me centre” because it processes information about yourself, such as worrying about the future and brooding on the past. The mPFC kicks into overdrive when people are anxious about their lives. When you meditate, you train your brain to maintain prolonged focus and to return to it when negative thoughts, emotions, or bodily sensations intrude — which happens regularly when you’re stressed or nervous (15).
Meditation also protects the hippocampus, which is another way it benefits the brain (a brain area involved in memory). Persons who meditated for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks increased the volume of grey matter in their hippocampus, according to one study, and people who suffer from recurrent depression have a smaller hippocampus, according to other studies (15).
Yoga Poses, Meditation & Breathing Exercises for Depression
Meditation can help alleviate the negative impacts of chronic pain, such as depression and reduced self-esteem (16, 17).
How To Practice
- Sit in a comfortable and relaxed position. It may also be beneficial to close your eyes. (If standing or lying down makes you feel better, that’s fine, too).
- Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. Just concentrate on your breathing for a few seconds. It’s natural for your mind to go away from your breathing. Simply keep bringing your attention back to your breathing whenever you find yourself thinking about something else.
- Begin shifting your attention away from your breath and toward various regions of your body to perform a body scan. Begin your body scan anywhere you choose. Some people prefer to begin with their feet, while others prefer to begin with their hands or their heads.
- Concentrate your attention on your body as you move from one portion to the next. Take note of how each body part feels as you continue to breathe slowly and deeply.
- Visualize sending soothing breaths to that area of your body. Imagine the tense muscle relaxing and the discomfort dissipating. Getting more at ease with your physiological sensations and experiences might help you become more aware of changes as they occur.
- Return your concentration to your breathing for as long as you need it when you’ve completed scanning your body.
Depression can be treated by equal ratio breathing. Breathing is a better treatment for improving mood and, on the other hand, it enhances the body’s blood circulation (18).
How To Practice
- For inhalation, an individual must count identical lengths of breathing, and time lengths must be matched for exhalation.
- This breathing style must be maintained for a minute while balancing the length.
- However, after three or four cycles of breathing, you can add another count.
- The performance time should be increased for a more depressed person.
There are various poses or asanas that can be used to alleviate depression (18).
Child Pose (Balasana)
This yoga pose helps to relieve stress and anxiety. This yoga pose is one of the soothing poses that helps to improve mental peace and stability.
How To Practice
- Kneeling and sitting on heels with both toes should be in contact with one another.
- The knees and thighs should be wide apart, and the torso should be leaned forward.
- The body’s arms must be placed forward on both sides of the head.
- The palms of the hands should be facing down.
Shoulder Supported Bridge or Simply Bridge Pose (Sethubandhasana)
This yoga pose helps to stretch the back muscles of the body and relieves weariness. People suffering from stress and anxiety as a result of severe work pressure can benefit from this pose. This activity makes a person feel lighter and more at ease.
How To Practice
- For this pose, lie down on the floor in order to accomplish this pose.
- Both arms must be on the same side of the body.
- The lower half of the body must be pulled up to the knees, and the thighs must be parallel.
Downward Dog Pose or Downward-facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
This yoga pose boosts the body’s blood flow. This process involved stretching the cervical spine and neck, which aids in the promotion of mental health and depression levels. This pose also improves digestion and strengthens the abdominal muscles.
How To Practice
- For this pose, an individual must position their body like a table by straightening their elbows and bending their knees.
- The hip should be pushed upwards, forming an inverted-V configuration.
- Place your hands on the ground, wide apart, and firmly press them down.
- Furthermore, the inner arm must be touched by the ears.
Upward Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha svanasana)
This pose technique is quite effective at controlling mild depression and fatigue. This yoga pose can help to alleviate mental depression and back stress. This asana aids in the waking of the upper body.
This pose can be done on an empty stomach in the morning with your bowels empty. The practise of Urdhva Mukha svanasana on a regular basis also aids in the healthy functioning of hormones, lowering stress levels.
How To Practice
- This pose is performed by lying down on the floor and facing downwards.
- Toes should be pointed downward and spaced a few inches apart.
- The palms should be placed at the body’s chest, facing down.
- The arms and legs must be stretched in order to move the torso upward.
- The head should be kept straight and upwards, and the shoulders should be kept away from the ears.
Plough Pose (Halasana)
This yoga pose is beneficial for both mental and physical depressed reduction. This yoga asana can also help you improve your posture. Halasana promotes brain tranquility and provides relief from sleeplessness and depression. This pose can be slightly difficult to do and should be done in the presence of an instructor.
How To Practice
- First, lie down on your flat and lift your legs off the ground at a 90-degree angle.
- Hand placement must be done away from the hips, and they must be used as support.
- The hips must then be gradually pulled closer to the chest.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
This asana aids in the correct functioning of the neurological system and boosts the body’s energy levels. It improves a person’s tranquility and decreases anxiety. This pose enhances the condition of the heart by improving blood circulation and can help with depression.
This task must be completed on an empty stomach and with the bowels empty. Meals should be consumed six hours prior to executing this yoga pose. This yoga is best done first thing in the morning, but it can also be done later in the evening. However, if there is a back issue, this yoga pose should be avoided. Moreover, patients with a hamstring tear, a damaged retina, or glaucoma should avoid doing this activity.
How To Practice
- To begin, Standing tall with arms on both sides of the body is required.
- By bending forward, the arms must now be placed at the hips.
- After that, by gripping the ankles, bring the hand down and place it behind the feet.
- Standing forward bend is another name for this pose.
Corpse Pose (Mrtasana or Savasana)
This pose can help you lower your blood pressure. It is suggested that savasana be performed after each yoga practice. This aids in muscle relaxation and blood flow normalization. This aids in the healing of emotional scars and is utilized in the therapy of trauma and can be a great Yoga pose in helping aid with depression.
How To Practice
- To perform savasana, one must lie down on their back on the floor.
- The feet should be spaced apart by a few inches, and the palms should face upwards beside the body.
- It is necessary to close your eyes and take a deep breath which aids in the healing of emotional scars and is utilized in the therapy of trauma.
Yoga is a relatively new treatment or practice in the world that is used more for mind-body wellness. Yoga is often used to help people who are depressed. Researchers examined the benefits and effectiveness of depression for managing depressed symptoms and discovered that yoga has a positive effect on depression outcomes in different populations.
References and Further Reading – Yoga For Depression
- American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author
- Scott, T. M., Gerbarg, P. L., Silveri, M. M., Nielsen, G. H., Owen, L., Nyer, M., … & Streeter, C. C. (2019). Psychological function, iyengar yoga, and coherent breathing: a randomized controlled dosing study. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 25(6), 437-450.
- Schuver, K. J., & Lewis, B. A. (2016). Mindfulness-based yoga intervention for women with depression. Complementary therapies in medicine, 26, 85-91.
- Kendler, K. S., & Gardner, C. O. (2014). Sex differences in the pathways to major depression: a study of opposite-sex twin pairs. American Journal of Psychiatry, 171(4), 426-435.
- Albert, P. R. (2015). Why is depression more prevalent in women?. Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience: JPN, 40(4), 219.
- Gallagher, A., Kring, D., & Whitley, T. (2020). Effects of yoga on anxiety and depression for high risk mothers on hospital bedrest. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 38, 101079.
- Marefat, M., Peymanzad, H., & Alikhajeh, Y. (2011). The study of the effects of yoga exercises on addicts’ depression and anxiety in rehabilitation period. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 30, 1494-1498.
- Parikh, S. V., Riba, M. B., & Greden, J. F. (2019). Depressive disorders. The American Psychiatric Association Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry. 7th ed. Washington, DC.
- Sekhon, S., & Gupta, V. (2020). Mood disorder.
- MacKenzie, M. B., & Kocovski, N. L. (2016). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: trends and developments. Psychology research and behavior management.
- 10-Minute Meditation For Depression – (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRxT9cOKiM8)
- Sah, S. Yoga as a Remedy for Anxiety and Depression.