Last updated on November 24th, 2023.
Depression can be a difficult emotion to deal with, especially when it hits during an inopportune or busy time in your life. Over the past few years, there have been a number of studies and testimonials indicating that certain yoga poses can actually be an effective way to remedy the symptoms which accompany depression.
There are seven different yoga poses that work wonders to reduce stress and help you beat the symptoms of depression. If you can learn to master these poses, you will be much better prepared to face and conquer your next bout of melancholy.
You must learn to do yoga poses properly for them to accurately combat negative emotions. Keep reading to learn about how you can use yoga to battle depression and other negative feelings in your life.
How Does Yoga Affect Your Mental Health?
Many people have a difficult time believing that yoga impacts your mental health, but it most certainly does and in many ways. Although yoga is widely regarded as physical stretching, the practice of yoga also involves breath training and other methods which lead to your full body, including your mind, relaxing.
Besides just helping you relax, yoga helps greatly with stress reduction and managing anxiety—two emotional states that have been widely attributed to contributing to negative mental states.
Yoga does this by removing tension from your muscles while you breathe deeply, which has its own powers when it comes to maintaining mental health. Frequent yoga can also help relieve chronic body aches and other conditions that cause you pain. And less physical pain always helps to improve your mood because it’s difficult to be happy when you are in pain.
If you practice yoga regularly, you will eventually get stronger, more flexible, and in shape. And when you are in shape, you will feel better and more confident in yourself and your body. Positive body image is a major aspect of keeping the negative thoughts that lead to poor mental health at bay and improving your outlook on life overall.
7 Yoga Poses That Help With Depression
Maybe you aren’t convinced just yet, and that’s okay. But next time you are feeling down or trying to manage your depression, it might be time to give yoga a shot. Or, whether you’re a seasons instructor or a fresh graduate from an Online Yoga Teacher Training course (or in person) feel free to weave some of these into your class and ask your students how they feel before and after. If it’s just for your, start by feeling out and eventually mastering the following seven poses and no doubt you’ll take a turn towards feeling relaxed and in a better, more positive state of mind.
1. Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
This is a pose that is especially easy for beginners while also being regarded as a pose that can better help you cope with anxiety and depression. This pose is a standing pose, so even those with physical limitations, such as bad knees, should have no problem performing it.
Start by standing straight up, with your feet a comfortable distance apart. Step one foot backward, allowing the front foot to be pointed forward, and the foot that stepped back should be pointed towards the wall to your left or right.
Reach your arms out so that they are parallel to your legs, and have your palms facing downward. Slowly bend to the side, lowering your arm that is over your forward-facing foot until the opposite arm is pointed at the ceiling. Elongate your sides and hips. Turn your head to look at the hand which is reaching for the ceiling. Stay here for one minute.
2. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Have you ever heard of an inversion table? These have been known to help anxiety by putting your head below your heart. But an inversion table is expensive, so try this easy yoga pose to help lower anxiety instead.
Lay flat on your back on the floor with your arms by your side. Place the bottoms of your feet flat on the floor, keeping your knees pointed towards the ceiling. Turn your hands, so your palms are pressed to the floor, and slowly push your hips up. This will push your chest up and place your heart above your head in the same way an inversion table does.
3. Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
If you are getting a little lost in these complicated yoga positions, then this next pose is definitely the one for you. Anyone at any age can do this pose, and if you find it too difficult, you can place a pillow under your hips to make this stretch more comfortable. This pose has specifically been shown to help reduce stress after an, especially rough day.
To start this pose, simply lay on your back near a wall. Face the wall, and open your legs so that you can get as close to the wall as possible. Then place your legs, so they are resting on the wall vertically. If you can, scoot closer to the wall until your body forms an L shape. Stay in this pose for twenty minutes. If done correctly, this pose will be as effective at relaxing your body as taking a nap.
4. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
This next pose is another easy one that can be used to battle depression no matter what your age or level of physicality is. This pose has been monumental in helping reduce stress, anxiety, and depression when practiced regularly.
Begin this pose by standing with your feet a few inches apart—whatever distance feels comfortable for you. While standing, hold your arms out so that your body forms a “T” shape.
Next, bend at your waist as much as you can. Those who are very flexible will be able to bend completely over to rest their chest on their knees. Breathe deeply and hold this for at least a minute. It is also recommended that you repeat this pose a few times throughout your yoga practice for best results.
5. Tree Pose (Vriksasana)
When people think about yoga, they often picture tree pose in their minds. And this is for a good reason. Tree pose is famous for helping you learn to control your emotions, which can be a huge step to helping you manage your depression. Do note, however, that this pose does take quite a bit of concentration to balance and should not be attempted if you have poor balance, to begin with.
Engage in a tree pose by standing with your feet a few inches apart. Place your palms flat together in front of your heart in what is also called praying hands. Take a deep breath, then slide your foot up to your leg as far as is comfortable for you.
When you are just starting out, this will probably be your calf, but as you begin to master this pose, you can pull your foot all the way up to your inner thigh. Hold this pose for 5-10 deep breaths.
6. Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)
This pose is especially famous when it comes to alleviating the symptoms of depression. Like the aforementioned bridge pose, this yoga pose helps to increase blood flow to the brain by placing the heart above the head.
This can also help increase awareness and concentration as well as with insomnia. You may recognize parts of this pose as similar to those in downward facing dog, but it uses your elbows instead.
For dolphin pose, it is beneficial to have a yoga mat or softer surface than the hard ground. Start by sitting on your knees at one end of your yoga mat. When you are ready for the pose, lean forward and place your elbows on the mat.
Your elbows should be a comfortable width apart, and you should interlace your fingers together. Take a deep breath in this position. Then, curl your toes under and press to lift your knees and hips away from the mat. Once your body is in an upside-down V shape, bring your head to rest lightly on the mat.
7. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose, although it is named after children, isn’t always the easiest pose to engage in. But if you have no hip or knee problems, the stress relieving properties of this pose are known far and wide. This is another pose that is best performed on a yoga mat or another semi-soft surface for your own comfort.
Enter the child’s pose by sitting back on your heels, ensuring that your big toes are barely touching. Rest your hands on the top of your thighs. Slowly lean forward to lower your belly to rest on your thighs and your chest to rest on the mat in front of them. Touch your forehead to the floor.
There are a couple of different variations of this pose, and you can either leave your arms resting alongside your body or bring them out to rest on the mat in front of your head for an extra stretch.
Is Yoga Good for Anxiety and Depression?
It’s pretty clear that yoga has a profound effect on your mental health. But is it good for anxiety and depression specifically? And the answer to this is, most certainly!
Depression can often make it difficult to exercise because you will simply not feel like doing anything. This is where yoga comes in handy, it’s not near as physically demanding as other types of exercise, but it still produces serotonin, and a boost of serotonin may be just what you need when you are facing feelings like depression.
Beyond a serotonin boost, yoga can help to effectively lower your heart rate and blood pressure—two aspects that are major players when it comes to combating anxiety.
Additionally, one of the symptoms people with anxiety commonly experience is racing thoughts, and yoga like meditation can help with depression and racing thoughts too—as many of the poses require concentration in order to maintain them. And this concentration helps to clear the mind of racing and stressful thoughts, even just temporarily.
If you are still in doubt, a few different studies have discovered that when it comes to combatting the symptoms of depression, yoga can reduce these symptoms if it is practiced just once a week for 60 minutes. This means that it doesn’t take much for yoga to make a change in someone’s life who is suffering from anxiety or depression!
Anxiety and depression are tough conditions to live with, but with the help of yoga, you can mitigate and even eliminate your symptoms.
When you employ these seven yoga poses in your life, you will be more relaxed, have lower stress, and may even see improvement in chronic pains. All of these things can help you to live a better life, so don’t delay and add a yoga routine with these seven poses into your life right away!