One morning as I woke up from my slumber, I was feeling so heavy under the sheets of my own hollowness. Depression and anxiety has always stayed in my family and it was also a part of my routine. I think experiencing bullying from my early years is what set off my depression; being bullied about my weight or just who I was in general. People can be extremely cruel, and often do not think about the years of damage their cruelty can do to someone. I discovered yoga in 2012. At first, I started because I really wanted to just contort my body in all angles. I had never tried anything of the sort, and wanted to see just how far the body could get pushed. I was still very much in a depressed state and had massive anxiety with just about everything.
For me, depression was like a rogue wave. It would come out of nowhere and then I’d be under it: tossed and turned and tormented. This lasted for a few days, sometimes even a week, before I resurfaced. From my late teens to early twenties, I was on medication and spending a few hours a week with a therapist. I felt like a victim to the waves of depression, because I didn’t know how to control, combat, or even anticipate these times of despair. I was terrified that I’d never lead a normal life.
My practice is one of the only places where I feel my emotions have space to take life without needing to conform to how I think everyone wants me to feel. Over time, my feelings of angst have felt acknowledged so they’ve been much easier to contain. The most profound healing I’ve found has come from walking straight through my depression until I came out on the other side, leaving nothing left to explore. It’s been a maze I’ve had to wander through to find my way out. Lately, I found the cure for my problems in yoga. It has become my a part of my daily schedule since then. I tried the below mentioned yoga asanas or poses to overcome my depression and anxiety, and keep a calm, composed mind altogether. Before going deep into yoga. Let us first discuss what does depression mean and how it affects our life.
Introduction to Depression
An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and that affects the way a person eats, sleeps, feels about himself or herself, and thinks about things. Depression is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished away. People with depression cannot merely ‘pull themselves together’ and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. People with a depressed mood may be notably sad, anxious, or empty; they may also feel notably hopeless, helpless, dejected, or worthless.
Symptoms of Depression
- You feel worthless and guilty on a daily basis
- Your concentration decreases and indecisiveness takes over
- All the hobbies and activities you enjoyed previously now don’t seem appealing at all
- You think about death and contemplate suicide
- You feel unstable and fidgety or incredibly dull and slow
- There will be a significant change in your weight – you either gain it or lose it.
Causes responsible for depression
When you get emotionally attached to something over a period, and it doesn’t exist anymore, it leaves a gap, and depression takes over to cope with the loss. Genetics, fluctuation in the hormone levels, some medical conditions, post-surgery reaction, and high stress levels also cause depression. It is a common yet severe problem that needs to be tackled before it gets out of hand. Let’s now find out how yoga and depression are related.
Yoga as a cure for depression
Yoga is one of the best ways to lighten your mood and keep depression at bay. It poses increase blood circulation to the brain and enable the production of the mood-elevating hormones. The practice of yoga doesn’t have any adverse side effects, which make it a better option as compared to other medication for depression. Some yoga poses to fight depression are mentioned below. Try them for at least 12 weeks to notice significant changes.
12 yoga poses to battle against depression
1. Bend the sadness by yoga
If you thought “heartache” and “heavy-hearted” were just evocative turns of phrase, think again. In fact, research shows that sudden emotional stress can release hormones that prevent the heart from pumping normally. Even watching a sad movie can reduce arterial blood flow. And if emotions affect the body so acutely, then it seems logical that the body could in turn influence our emotions.
Back bends help expand the heart center and help you exude confidence and grace.” In other words, back bends ease breathing, improve posture, and reduce stress by releasing tension held in the tissues of the whole chest and lung region of the body.
2. Child’s pose or Balasana
It relieves stress and fatigue as it stretches the lower back and hips. The correct procedure to practice child’s pose is:
1. Sit on your heels with your big toes touching and hands resting on your thighs.
2. Lower your belly and chest to rest between your knees, bringing your forehead to the floor.
3. Relax your arms back beside your shins, palms facing up.
4. Soften your breath by taking 5 to 10 long, deep inhalations and exhalations.
Balasana helps calm your brain and relieves stress and anxiety. It gently stretches your lower back and hips, enabling your body to relax. Peace and calm prevail over your entire being, helping you deal with your depression better. it is considered as one of the most comfortable yoga poses.
3. Sethu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
Sethu Bandhasana strengthens the back muscles and relieves a tired back. It helps you relax and works wonders for people suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression.
Sethu Bandhasana opens up your heart, making you feel light and at ease. To do the pose, lie down on the floor on your back. Keep your arms on the floor on either side with the palms facing down. Lift your legs by folding them at the knees. Make sure the ankles and knees are in a straight line, and the feet are a few inches apart. Then, gently lift your entire back off the floor and stay there for a few seconds. While doing this, your thighs should be parallel to each other, and your chest should touch your chin. Make sure you do not bend your chin.
4. Cobra pose
Boosts energy and mood as it strengthens the back of the body
1. Slowly slide forward from Child’s Pose to lie facedown.
2. Press your toes and forehead gently into the floor. Rest your palms lightly on the floor on either side of your chest with fingertips pointing forward and elbows bent and hugging in toward your ribcage.
3. Inhale and lift your chest from the heart, pressing only very lightly into your palms and mostly using your back strength to hold your shoulders and chest up.
4. Soften your shoulders. Then lift your hands off the floor completely, broadening across your collarbones and reaching your heart up. Take a couple of deep, slow breaths here.
5. Then as you exhale, place your palms back down and gently lower your chest to floor.
5. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose)
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana can easily cure mild fatigue and depression. It has an overall rejuvenating effect on your body, and all the stress trapped in your back will vanish.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana strengthens and awakens your upper body. To do the asana, lie on the floor with your face down and legs following the same with the toes facing downward and a few inches apart. Place your palms near the chest on either side, facing down. Keep your palms close to your ribs. Lift your torso and straighten your arms and legs a few inches off the floor. Press the top part of your feet firmly into the ground. Keep your head straight or facing upwards and your shoulders away from your ears and let your chest rise.
6. Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Reduces fatigue and focuses the mind as it strengthens and stretches most of the body
1. From Cobra, come onto all fours. Separate your knees to hip-width apart, move your wrists slightly forward of your shoulders, and curl your toes under.
2. Exhale and spread your fingers wide, press evenly through your palms, and lift your knees to reach your hips toward the ceiling. Keep your legs slightly bent.
3. Push the tops of your thighs back so your body looks like an inverted “V” Slowly start to straighten your legs as much as feels appropriate for you, without locking your knees.
4. Gently move your chest back toward your thighs until your ears are even with your upper arms. And keep lifting your hips away from your heels and wrists.
7. Halasana (Plow Pose)
Halasana reduces the strain on your back and enhances your posture. It calms your brain, gives it a good stretch, and reduces stress. It keeps headaches and insomnia at bay.
Halasana is one of the best calming poses for your nervous system. To do the pose, lie flat on your back, with your arms kept alongside your body. Lift your legs off the ground at an angle of 90 degrees to the ground. Then, place your hands on your hips and using them as support, lift your hips towards your chest. Slowly bring down your legs and take them over your head, touching the ground beyond your head and placing your toes firmly on the ground. Make sure your thighs are straight to avoid them touching your head. Remove your hands from the hips, straighten your arms forward, and place them on the ground with the palms facing downward.
8. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold Pose)
Uttanasana relieves tension in your back, shoulders, and neck and improves the functioning of your nervous system. It calms you and reduces anxiety.
Uttanasana also improves blood circulation. To do the asana, stand straight with your arms alongside your body and your feet at arms’ length. Now, place your arms on your hips and bend forward at the hips. Make your head and chest touch your thighs. Bring your hands down and put them beside your feet or hold your ankles from behind. Keep your thighs straight.
9. Warrior pose
Eases stress and anxiety as it strengthens the legs and core
1. From Downward-Facing Dog, pivot your left heel down to the floor so your toes are pointing out to the left.
2. Step your right foot forward between your hands, lining your front heel up with your back.
3. Inhale and lift your arms overhead, shoulder-width apart, palms facing each other.
4. Exhale as you bend your front knee to 90 degrees and turn your hips toward your right leg.
5. Inhale as you reach your arms up higher and maybe back slightly for a gentle bend in the upper back. Hold for 3 to 10 slow, deep breaths.
10. Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Savasana rejuvenates you and helps your body relax. It reduces blood pressure and lets the effects of the previous poses to sink in better.
Finally, after all the mind and body invigorating poses, Savasana will give you all the rest and scope to heal. To do the Savasana, lie on the floor on your back. Keep your feet a few inches apart and let them fall sideways. Let your arms lie alongside your body with your palms facing upwards. Now, gently close your eyes and let your whole body relax, slowly and gently. Take deep breaths, and stay in the moment.
11. Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward-Facing Bow Pose), variation
Improves circulation, stimulates the nervous system, and generates a feeling of well-being.
Position two blocks against the wall, shoulder-width apart. Lie on your back with your head between the blocks, your knees bent, your feet hip-width apart, and your heels close to your buttocks. Bend your elbows and place your hands alongside your head with your fingers pointing toward your feet.
As you exhale, raise your hips and chest, straighten your arms, and stretch your legs. Lift your tailbone and move the backs of your thighs toward your buttocks. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds if you can. If not, come in and out of it two or three times. To come out, bend your knees and elbows and slowly lower your body to the floor.
12. Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose), variation
Opens the chest, lifts the spirits, and invigorates the body.
Put a firm blanket on a chair placed with its back about 2 feet from a wall. Sit backward on the chair, facing the wall, with your feet through the chair back and your buttocks at the chair’s edge. The chair should be far enough away that your feet can press into the wall when your legs are outstretched. Holding the back of the chair, arch back so that your shoulder blades are at the front edge of the chair seat. Take your feet to the wall, legs slightly bent, and place your arms between the legs of the chair to hold the back legs or rails. Lengthen your legs, pressing the chair away from the wall, and roll your thighs in toward each other. If you have neck problems, rest your head on a bolster. Breathe quietly for up to a minute, and then come out of the pose.
Prayer is the best form of reassurance and support to keep you anxiety-free. Developing habits of daily prayer, chanting or singing bhajans (devotional songs) fill you with positive energy and also help still the mind. They also instill a sense of deep faith that all happens for the best and that there is a higher divine power that takes care. Moreover, make a conscious effort to smile more and more. It will instill confidence, calmness and positivity instantaneously. Try it out right now! This is how I practiced calmness everyday to finally winning against depression. Even if I get it sometimes presently, I try hard to control my inner angst and yoga helps me in every bit.