Living with depression can be stressful and draining. While there is no single cure for mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, there are a variety of fitness and lifestyle changes you can adapt to alleviate them. Yoga is one of the most popular exercises for treating anxiety and depression. Many mental health professionals recommend adding a workout like yoga to your fitness routine. Its deep breathing techniques and challenging poses help students manage both their physical and mental health.
Yoga offers both physical and mental health benefits to its students. In a research study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, participants with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions found that attending a yoga class at least twice a week improved their mood.
A regular, 90-minute studio class isn’t mandatory-you can practice in your living room, bedroom, or backyard as long as you can fit a session in your schedule and budget. Just 30 minutes of focused yoga can help you manage your mental health and alleviate your anxiety and depression. Either way, maintaining a regular yoga schedule is essential for anyone practicing yoga for depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions.
If you are just starting, make sure you attend beginner yoga classes where you can learn proper techniques and safety tips. Expect soreness from moving your body around in unfamiliar poses after your first several classes.
AdhoMukhaSvanasana – also known as Downward-Facing Dog – allows fresh blood to flow throughout your body. The pose’s downward position stretches out the neck and cervical spine, thereby releasing any stress and anxiety you may be holding. Aside from its numerous mental health benefits, Downward Dog also strengthens the upper body muscles, promotes circulation, and improves digestion.
Beginners and experts alike can practice different variations of Downward Dog while reaping the same mental health benefits. Students who are still working on their flexibility may need to bend their knees a little. As they continue to practice and improve, they can try more challenging variations such as Downward Dog with a Scorpion Kick or Transverse Twist.
Proper breathwork is essential. Not only does it help you sink deeper into the yoga poses, but it also increases your energy and focus. Pranayama, the practice of controlling one’s breath, is often overlooked or forgotten during class. But it is the foundation of both your yoga practice and mental health care routine. When you forget to breathe in yoga class, you risk injuring yourself. So remember to keep taking those deep breaths.
You can take many of the breathing techniques you learn in class and incorporate them into your mental health care routine. Practice basic breath awareness by taking a few minutes each day to observe the inhalation and exhalation of air through your nose. Mindful breathing practices such as this one are effective in improving your mental health and helping you focus.
Balasana – or Child’s Pose – is a resting pose that usually precedes or follows a classic asana pose. For instance, your instructor might have your class rest in Child’s Pose for a couple of minutes before popping up to Downward Dog and into a Chaturanga. This temporary rest allows you to breathe, focus, and reset your mind before starting the next sequence. It can also be great for managing your mental health.
Many yoga students enjoy Balasana because of its calming effects. As you rest your head on the ground, it becomes easier to relax and focus. Child’s Pose can also help you stretch out your hips and relieve any upper back and neck pain.
Not all yoga classes follow the same teaching style and practices. Hatha is slow-paced and gentle. In an Iyengar class, strict attention to the posture and alignment held in each pose. Vinyasa, on the other hand, focuses on the quick movement between poses to increase body heat.
No matter what the teaching style or focus is, yoga classes can improve your mental health. The best yoga class for helping you manage anxiety and depression is the one you enjoy going to the most.
Fusion yoga classes such as yogalates, yoga and pilates, and yoga with biking are also starting to grow in popularity. Consider trying one of these classes the next time you feel like changing up your fitness routine. The mental health benefits are still the same, but your body is in for a unique challenge.
Halasana or Plow Pose stretches out the back, subdues headaches, and blocks insomnia. Many students also find that Plow Pose helps them clear their heads and focus on their mental health.
However, Halasana does require a bit of back flexibility. As you lie on your back, you must try to lift your legs over your head and plant your feet onto the ground. You may need to practice simpler back stretches before attempting to tackle the Plow Pose.
Manage your mental health by incorporating simple meditations into your daily routine. You can meditate in the morning when you wake up or at night before you fall asleep. Combining yoga and regular meditation can help students recover from a wide array of mental health conditions.
As we said before, breathing plays a critical role in your yoga practice. Without breathing, there is no movement. Meditation also requires breathing. Deep, slow breaths allow the mind to focus. Make sure you focus on your breath as you meditate.
Upward-Facing Dog, or UrdhvaMukhaSvanasana, is an excellent addition to any yoga routine designed for alleviating mental health conditions. It is also great for strengthening the upper body. As you breathe and relax into the pose, you may feel the stress and tension in your back start to disappear. While you are in the pose, make sure to let your shoulders relax away from your ears. Keep your torso lifted, and the tops of your feet planted firmly in the ground.
Every yoga class finishes with Savasana. The resting Pose can reduce blood pressure and relax the body after a vigorous class. It can also strengthen the effects of the previous poses, thus increasing the mental health benefits of the class itself.
What Can You Do In Conjunction With Practicing Yoga?
Physically speaking, Savasana might be the most natural pose to perform. You lie on the ground with your arms out and palms facing up. By the end of yoga class, you’re probably looking forward to the resting pose. Instead, take this time to practice mindfulness and deep breathing techniques. Your mental health will thank you.
Yoga offers a wide variety of mental health benefits for both teachers and students. In addition to practicing this popular and fun workout, you may want to reach out to a mental health professional online for guidance on managing anxiety and depression. Licensed mental health professionals can provide online therapy to residents no matter the location or time.
The mental health therapists and counselors at BetterHelp are available 24 hours a day online. If you are considering online therapy, contact the BetterHelp team today.
Below are commonly asked questions on this topic:
Which yoga is best for depression?
Does yoga remove depression?
Which yoga is best for anxiety and depression?
Which yoga is best for mental health?
Can yoga increase serotonin?
Which pranayama is best for depression?
Is yoga better than antidepressants?
Is yoga or exercise better for depression?
Is yoga or meditation better for depression?
Can yoga cure panic disorder?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which Yoga Is Good For Depression?
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a resource center for yoga and health information, about 1 in 7 people have practiced yoga in the last year in the United States.
People of all ages, including young adults, can benefit from yoga. Some additional research has been done on how yoga can benefit children and young adults. The authors came to the conclusion that yoga interventions could be helpful for children and young adults.
Some poses that you could incorporate that would be good for depression include:
If you are concerned about starting a yoga practice on your own, you may look for a yoga instructor. A yoga instructor can make sure you are doing the physical movements correctly. Remember that physical movements are only part of yoga though: breathing is very important.
You may want to check if your yoga instructor has practitioner training. Practitioner training includes a 200-hour training. Practitioner training to get a certificate is not required, but if you know what type of practitioner training your teacher has, you may have a sense of what to expect.
Yoga can reduce the following: stress anxiety. However, yoga should not take the place mental health treatment, particularly if you have a mental illness. People with depression should discuss their mental health treatment plan with a health care professional. Your treatment should be tailored to you and your mental illness.
Which Yoga Is Best For Mental Health?
Hatha yoga is good for mental health, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and overall stress anxiety. Yoga poses called asanas are a part of hatha. Part of those yoga poses is controlled breathing. After the yoga poses, typically there’s a period of meditation or relaxation. You have a relaxation response during yoga, which is what can reduce the symptoms of depression and mitigate the effects of traumatic stress on the body. Yoga increases heart rate variability. Because yoga lowers the heart rate and increases blood flow, it is good for the overall heart health. Traumatic stress, on the other hand, raises the heart rate. Traumatic stress can also cause chronic pain issues.
People with depression may also have trouble with physical activity, so yoga might be a good fit.
According to a national survey of yoga practitioners, most felt their health improved because of yoga. Yoga is good for people of all ages, including young adults.
One randomized controlled trial did find that people who did yoga suffered fewer migraines. Randomized controlled trials are still needed to see how yoga can help with major depression.
You should discuss your mental health treatment with a mental health professional, particularly if you have a diagnosed mental illness. Yoga cannot take the place of mental health treatment in those who have a mental illness. You may discuss how yoga can support the treatment of your mental illness.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has more information on ways that yoga can improve your health. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is a resource center for science behind yoga.
Can Yoga Improve Mood?
Yes. In evidence based research, yoga has been found create a greater sense of well-being, increase feelings of relaxation, improve self-confidence and body image, improve efficiency, better interpersonal relationships, increase attentiveness, lower irritability, and encourage an optimistic outlook on life.
Is Yoga Good For Anxiety And Depression?
Evidence based research indicates that yoga can be good for your mental health, including depression and anxiety. Yoga should not take the place of standard mental health treatment. Discuss your mental health treatment with a mental health professional, particularly if you have a mental illness. They can figure out how yoga can into your overall mental health treatment plan.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is tracking any ongoing research about how yoga may help mental health. You may check the website of National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health for more information and use it as a resource center.
Which Yoga Is Best For Peace Of Mind?
Gentle and easy yoga with a focus on breathing and slow, flowing motions is best for peace of mind. It can help reduce the impact of traumatic stress on the body and mind. You may try searching yoga anxiety practices online. People with depression might also benefit from this.
Can Pranayam Cure Depression?
Depression and most types of mental illness cannot be cured, but they can be treated. Stress yoga may help with reducing depressive symptoms and the effects of traumatic stress, but you should discuss your treatment plan and get health information from a health care professional. Most mental health treatment will include talk therapy and perhaps medications. It will depend on the specifics of your mental illness.
Can Pranayam Cure Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, like many mental illness types, cannot be cured, but it can be treated. Yoga may help with symptoms, but you should discuss your treatment plan and get health information from a health care professional. Most mental health treatment will include talk therapy and perhaps medications. Your treatment should be tailored to the specifics of your mental illness.
Check National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health for more health information on the science behind yoga. It is a good resource center.