Ask YogaToday With Adi Amar: How Does Yoga Help Fight Depression?

  • Clare Durkin
image description

Depression is a mental illness that plagues 14.8 million American Adults. The debilitating symptoms of depression leave people feeling helpless, desperate, lost, isolated, fatigued, and disconnected from self and others.

Yogic practices can help combat symptoms of depression, improve mood, and increase overall feelings of well being. One of the many gifts of Yoga is that it promotes balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. A parasympathetic response aids in our ability to rest and digest during times of stress, anxiety and nervous tension. Mindfulness, breathing practices, and conscious movement helps to facilitate this response. The function of yogic postures is to support the breath, and the breath directly supports and serves to calm the nervous system. 

Through exercise and relaxation techniques, our body begins to release “feel-good” hormones (endorphins and serotonin) that improve mood, function and overall feelings of well being. Yoga trains us to be more sensitive to our sensations, thoughts, feelings, and the effects they all have on our body. The sensitivity that we gain through these different practices brings awareness to our discomforts and the impermanence of the feelings that we may be experiencing. This begins to transfer into our daily lives and we slowly gain self control, acceptance and are better able to relax and let go.

Forward bends--where the head rests below the heart--encourages the nervous system to relax. Backbends aid in energizing our minds and bodies providing us with the motivation to take care of ourselves and move stagnation that can cause us to feel dull and fatigued. An intelligent and balanced Yoga practice consisting of meditation, mindful movement and conscious breath promotes normal function and reduces the symptoms of depression, and helps to get us back on track as we reset and re-establish our ability for self care, self preservation and self love.