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Get Up and Move! How Yoga Can Help With Depression

Updated: Nov 30, 2022


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There is a growing body of research that suggests yoga and other mindfulness practices can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. It may also be one of the most accessible and affordable options for those suffering from depression or who are concerned they might fall into a depressive episode. A recent survey revealed that Millennials are more stressed-out, anxious, and depressed than any other generation in history. This comes as no surprise given the state of our world.These stressors have not only had an impact on our personal lives but also on our professional lives with many people struggling to find balance in their careers.


If you are dealing with depression and are looking for ways to manage it, you may want to explore what yoga has to offer.


 

What is Depression?


In order to understand how yoga combats depression, it’s crucial to first understand what depression is. Depression is a mental illness that affects a person’s mood. It can result in feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and/or a loss of interest in things one used to enjoy. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical symptoms, including insomnia, weight loss or gain, fatigue, increased or decreased appetite, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, and/or thoughts of suicide. Unfortunately, depression can be a chronic condition that lasts for years, but there are many ways to manage it and live a happy, healthy life.



What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

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  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).

  • Loss of interest in almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation).

  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day

  • Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.

  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down) .

  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self



How Does Yoga Help Prevent Depression?

Depression is often characterized by feelings of lethargy, a lack of energy, and an inability to motivate yourself to do anything. This is because a common symptom of depression is an inability to regulate serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that influences your mood by regulating mood, appetite, sleep, and sex drive. Yoga is a full body exercise which is great against depression because it warms up and strengthens the body. Yoga is an excellent tool for regulating your serotonin levels because it’s a combination of physical activity, meditation, and self-reflection.



Yoga for Depression: How Yoga Can Help You Mentally and Emotionally


Yoga is an excellent outlet for anyone who wants to work on their mental wellness, including those who are struggling with depression. Because no matter what’s going on inside of your head, yoga forces you to tune into your body and focus on the present moment. The physical activity involved in practicing poses forces you to take measurements of your stress levels and pay close attention to your body instead of ignoring its warning signs. In other words, yoga is a great way to combat the negative effects that depression can have on your mind and body.



5 Yoga Poses for Depression


There are many poses that can help fight depression, but here are a few of the most effective poses for mental health.


Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog): This go-to yoga pose is incredibly beneficial for mood regulation. It’s an active pose that requires upper body strength and flexibility. So, you’ll work out your entire body and regulate your mood at the same time.

Virasana Hero Pose: Virasana is a restorative pose that’s perfect for anyone struggling with depression. It’s a seated pose that’s designed to calm your body and your mind.

Balasana Child’s Pose: This pose is perfect for someone who’s dealing with anxiety or depression and has a lot of trouble regulating their emotions. It’s a great pose for releasing pent-up anxiety and is often done at the end of yoga classes at studios around the world. Garudasana

Eagle Pose: This pose is excellent for building strength in the arms and upper back. It also helps boost confidence and makes you feel more empowered.

Vrikshasana (Tree Pose): This pose is active, but not overly so. If you’re looking for a pose that’s challenging but won’t leave you feeling drained or overwhelmed, tree pose is a great option.


3 Breathing Exercises for Depression

There are many breathing exercises you can do on your own or while practicing yoga poses to help ease depression. Here are a few of our favorites.


Diaphragmatic Breathing: Diaphragmatic breathing is the most basic breathing exercise, but it’s also one of the most effective. For this type of breathing, you want to focus on breathing deeply and slowly through your abdomen. Not through your chest. When you breathe through your abdomen, you’ll be less likely to hold in your emotions and have an easier time releasing pent-up anxiety and stress.


Square Breathing: Square breathing is a variation of diaphragmatic breathing. It’s also incredibly effective for regaining control over your emotions. This type of breathing requires you to count to four as you inhale, hold for four seconds, count to four as you exhale, hold for four seconds, and then repeat. This is a great way to calm your nerves before an important meeting or event.

Alternate Nostril Breathing: This is an excellent yoga breathing exercise that helps combat anxiety and promotes feelings of calm. Alternate nostril breathing is a yogic technique that uses the thumb and forefinger on one hand to regulate airflow. It’s somewhat difficult to get the hang of on your own, so make sure to check out a yoga class if you want to try it out for yourself.




3 Meditative Practices for Depression

There are many types of meditation practices, but all of them are great for regaining control over your emotions and improving your mental health. Here are a few of our favorites.

Mindfulness Meditation: This is one of the most common types of meditation practices. It involves sitting in silence and focusing on your breath. This meditation is excellent for people who are new to the practice because it requires nothing more than a quiet space and a few minutes of your time each day.

Mantra Meditation: This kind of meditation is great for people who are interested in exploring the connection between spirituality and mental health. For mantra meditation, you’ll select a word or phrase that’s meaningful to you and use that word to clear your mind as you meditate.

Visualization Meditation: Visualization meditation is a great way to combat anxiety and regulate emotions and stress. For this type of meditation, you’ll create a mental image of a place that makes you feel safe, calm, and relaxed. It can be anything, but it’s often helpful to select a place that you’ve actually been in real life.




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Change your diet to fight depression

Certain foods are conducive to depression and anxiety, while others can help ease your symptoms. Here are some diet changes you can make to combat your depression. Drink lots of water: Water is a crucial part of mental health because it regulates hormones and hydration levels in the bloodstream. If you’re not drinking enough water each day, you’re more likely to experience a wide range of mental health issues, including depression. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables: The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables are essential for mental health. They promote feelings of calm, lower stress and anxiety, and help maintain a healthy mood. Avoid processed foods: The chemicals and preservatives found in processed foods have been linked to mental health issues. Stick to whole foods, and you’ll be better equipped to regulate your emotions.


Conclusion

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Yoga is not just for yogis anymore. In fact, many people are now discovering the many benefits of yoga, including the potential to help manage stress and improve your overall health.


If you suffer from depression, yoga may be a great option for you. Research suggests that yoga can help relieve symptoms of depression and boost your mood. Yoga also has been shown to improve a number of other health conditions, including hypertension, weight loss, and pain management. And since yoga involves physical activity, it's a great way to get moving and spend time outdoors in an environment that's free of distractions. While you're at it, make sure not to forget about your breathing and focus on the present moment.

The key to effectively coping with your depression is to keep in mind that it's not a life sentence. You can learn how to heal your mind and body and improve your life – one pose at a time.

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