Are you depressed?

Aug 28, 2020

Using Yoga to Reduce the Symptoms of Depression

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world with more than 264 million people affected.

In the worst-case scenario, depression can lead to suicide. Globally, approximately 800 000 people commit suicide every year, with suicide being the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

Although there are known and effective treatments for mental disorders, between 76% and 85% of people in low- and middle-income countries receive no treatment for their disorder.

Because of this, researchers are studying the effectiveness of alternative and complementary treatments for depression such as yoga, with a number of researches supporting the use of yoga to reduce depression or depressive symptoms.

So, basically, you may be reading this article because you or someone you know is suffering from a high level of stress or depression, especially in these times of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Covid-19 economic, social, and health indicators confirm that people are now experiencing a fear of the unknown and are anxious about the future.

The most important objective is to find the best way to deal with anxiety/depression and to work out what exercises to use instead of just hoping that everything will be just fine.

So how do we know if someone is experiencing depression?

According to the Fifth Edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,  someone is depressed if they have been experiencing five or more of the following symptoms for two or more weeks that are causing them significant emotional distress:

  • depressed or sad mood,
  • short-tempered or easily annoyed,
  • loss of interest or enjoyment in hobbies or activities that were previously enjoyed,
  • feeling of worthlessness or guilt,
  • thoughts of death or suicide,
  • difficulty in concentrating or making decisions,
  • feeling tired or fatigued,
  • feeling restless or slow,
  • changes in appetite such as overeating or loss of appetite,
  • changes in weight such as weight loss or weight gain, and
  • changes in sleep patterns.

So, can yoga reduce the symptoms of depression?

In a systematic review of the literature on yoga and depression published in 2017 in the “Journal of Evidence-based Integrative Medicine”, Ledetra Bridges and Manoj Sharma evaluated and reviewed 23 interventions published between 2011 and May 2016 by various yoga schools, focusing on the most common type of yoga that combines three elements:

  • physical poses,
  • controlled breathing,
  • and a short period of deep relaxation or meditation.

Despite the non-utilisation of behavioural theories, the limitations of small samples in most of the studies, and the varied duration of the intervention period, with most studies examining the short-term effect of yoga for depression, it was concluded that the yoga interventions were effective in reducing depression.

So, the combination of meditation and physical movement provides two important elements for relieving depression.  Meditation helps bring a person into the present moment and allows them to clear their minds.

As explained in my book “Yoga for Over 40s” as well as  “Yoga for Over 50s” and “Yoga for Over 60s” , yoga helps us to connect our breathing with our body movements.

A daily yoga practice will bring your physical body and your emotional body into balance, resulting in improved wellbeing and increased energy.

At the same time, you will find relief from obsessive negative thinking that will in turn increase your positive thinking, as explained in my book “Zak Milo speaks of Divorce” .

Do you want to help yourself or someone else to reduce the symptoms of depression?

I recommend you practice the five yoga positions below at least three times per week, with five breaths for each position.

Five easy positions to reduce the symptoms of depression – technical details and benefits:

1. Swastikasana – Easy Cross Leg
2. Swastikasana and Arms Forward, Right and Left Forward Bend Stretch
3. Baddha Konasana
4. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
5. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Begin your practice with Swastikasana – Easy Cross Leg pose.

1. Swastikasana – Easy Cross Leg

Technical details and how to start:

  • Start this pose in an easy cross leg seated position. You can sit on block or cushion if required.
  • Left shin in front, right leg inside.
  • Place the back of your hand onto your knees with thumb and first finger pressing each other.
  • Gaze point is on top of the nose.
  • Inhale and exhale through the nose five times, counting up to three each way.

Benefits:

  • This is a meditative posture which stretches the hips and the thighs.
  • Balances the lower body alignment,
  • Induces calmness and meditativeness.
  • Relieves stress.
  • Creates emotional balance.

2. Swastikasana and Arms Forward, Right and Left Forward Bend Stretch

Technical details and how to start:

  • Continue seated as in position above.
  • Come forward stretching your arms forward.
  • At each exhalation, stretch your arms forward as much as possible.
  • Move the arms towards the right side trying to put your left hand over the right hand if possible.
  • Move the arms towards the left side trying to put your right hand over the left hand if possible.
  • Do each position for five breaths moving from one position to another at the fifth exhalation.

Benefits:

  • Excellent position to open your hips and to relax.
  • Excellent side stretch position.
  • It is also a grounding pose and calms the mind, thus helping relieve stress and tension which can help to remove anxiety.

3. Baddha Konasana

Position A

Position B

Technical details and how to start:

  • Get into the initial position, inhale and bring your feet as close to your groin as possible, with soles touching each other. Position A.
  • As you exhale, bend forward (Position B) to hold your feet with your hands and pull them towards yourself.
  • Keep pulling your feet until you feel a mild stretch in the inner thighs.
  • Do not curve your back. Hold the position for 5-7 breaths.
  • Slowly, go back into the starting position. Breathe normally.

Benefits:

  • Stimulates abdominal organs, ovaries and prostate gland, bladder, and kidneys.
  • Stimulates the heart and improves general circulation.
  • Stretches the inner thighs, groin, and knees.
  • Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress , relieves mild depression, anxiety, mood swings, and fatigue.
  • Soothes menstrual discomfort and sciatica.
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause.

4. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Position A

Position B

Position C

Technical details and how to start:

  • Start by lying on your back.
  • Bend the knees, feet hip-width apart, knees in line with your ankles.
  • Put your arms flat on the floor and do the position you can do at the moment: A, B or C.
  • Lift your pelvis up, shoulders and head on the floor.
  • Hold the pose for five inhalations and exhalations.
  • Release and relax for three breaths.
  • Do it three times.

Benefits:

  • Stretches the chest, neck, and spine.
  • Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression.
  • Stimulates the abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause.
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort.
  • Reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache, and insomnia.

5. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Technical details and how to start:

  • Lie on your back.
  • Feet spread hip width apart.
  • Palms outside facing up.
  • Relax every part of your body from your face to your fingers and toes while doing a body scan.
  • Stay in this pose for as long as you want.
  • Put some relaxation music on if you want.
  • Dim the lights.

Benefits:

  • Finish your yoga class with Corpse Pose, or Savasana. This pose helps you relax and learn to let go of stress. It is a mini meditation session at the end of your yoga practice.
  • Relaxes your whole body.
  • Releases stress, fatigue, depression, and tension.
  • Improves concentration.
  • Cures insomnia.
  • Relaxes your muscles.
  • Calms the mind and improves mental health.
  • Helps to lower blood pressure.

Conclusion:

Studies show that yoga therapy can help with stress, anxiety, and depression. Yoga is a gentle exercise that incorporates both meditation and controlled, physical movements.

The focus on deep breathing and stretching your body is effective in relieving the symptoms of depression, such as sleep troubles, pain, and a loss of energy.

Disclaimer: Please note – yoga complements traditional therapies and it is not meant to be a sole treatment and can not be used as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Thank you.

Drazen Milosevic

Yoga by D: Can offer advice on:

  • Better hair grow control
  • Better weight control
  • Stabilised blood pressure
  • Decreased stress levels
  • Better sleep
  • Combating aging pains
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