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Using Yoga for Treating Mild Depression

Updated on December 5, 2012
Poses are part of the unique yoga workout
Poses are part of the unique yoga workout | Source

One of the most effective tools I found to help me in recovering from depression was exercise. I had read all about the positive effects for the body and brain and decided to try something. But jogging and aerobics were too harsh and I got bored with machines.

Then I happened upon yoga. I liked the idea of an exercise that was gentle. I just wasn't sure it would bring the same results as a higher-impact workout.

Yoga has turned out to be both challenging and rewarding for me. And I'm not alone. Many people who suffer from the symptoms of mild (and in some cases moderate) depression have found relief and personal empowerment through practicing yoga.

Research In This Area

Several clinical studies and individual accounts over the last couple of decades point to the same result. Control groups in psychiatric and veterans' hospitals, alcohol treatment centers, and universities alike have agreed.

Yoga can be a beneficial part of a treatment program for depression. If done correctly, there are no adverse side effects, and the benefits can be long-lasting.

NOTE: Exercise is just one way of helping to ease depression symptoms. You need to consult your doctor, who knows your history and present condition. He or she will recommend the best combination of treatments for you.


Check in with your doctor before beginning yoga. Discuss any physical conditions or limitations that may effect your workout.

Do research on potential instructors, whether in a local class or on a DVD. Make sure they are trained and certified to lead you.

Wear clothing that is comfortable, but not too loose. I wear light sneakers for my practice, but many people do it barefoot. Yoga mats are helpful for traction, but are not vital.

Yoga poses increase muscle strength.
Yoga poses increase muscle strength. | Source

How Yoga Helps Ease Depression

Doing yoga consists of learning the controlled breathing techniques. Over time, these slower, deeper breaths can become a regular part of your daily life. Your heart rate will stay calmer and your blood pressure will stay lower overall.

Practicing the poses themselves helps release stress in your muscles and will give your body a strength, or even cardio, workout. And a healthy body is key to mental wellness.

As you pursue yoga, you become more focused and can better concentrate. Through meditation you learn to guide your thoughts in a more positive direction, which can improve your mood and outlook.

It was hard to slow down at first, but over time I learned to enjoy the pace. And as my body loosened up, my anxiety level began to drop. Encouraged, I tried making small steps in other areas of my life that needed change.

Which Types of Yoga Are Best?

It seems there is not one recommended style. The important thing is to find a type that you feel comfortable with. Taking it slowly and gently, find a class or DVD that you enjoy.

Choose a yoga class that fits your style and experience level!
Choose a yoga class that fits your style and experience level! | Source

Some popular yoga choices:

(Classes and DVD's might mix and match a little, but this gives you a starting point.)

Hatha - Focuses on poses as well as breathing, and is a more gentle introduction to yoga. It forms the basis for many other styles.

Restorative - Specifically designed to bring rest and deep relaxation to the body. The atmosphere and poses are meant to be soothing.

Vinyasa - aimed at continuous movement connected with breathing. There is less structure, so instructors are free to change the series of poses each class.

Astanga and Kundalini- more advanced forms of yoga. Intense and challenging, the poses are designed to produce heat in the body.


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    • Heather63 profile image

      Heather Adams 6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I'm glad that combo works so well for you. I find that medication can be helpful in some cases, but don't want to rely on it, so I agree with your viewpoint. Thanks for your comments!

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      I found excercise and meditation to be extremely useful when depression creeps in! I have always tried to avoid using medication and for mild cases, that is very possible. Thanks for sharing!