Yoga can be used for just about anything. When you want to stretch out those hamstrings: yoga. When you need to build core strength: yoga. If you can't bend over to tie your shoes: yoga. If your mind races a mile a minute: yoga. This ancient practice has a whole host of benefits for the practitioner and it only continues to be relevant in modern times. How does yoga do all this? What is it about the practice that provides the health and healing that people desire? Not only does the yoga practice assist with physical limitations, but the research is showing how the practice is quite effective with healthy mental well-being. (Whew! That's a relief.)
Depression is a pervasive condition that many people experience on many levels. Ranging from sadness to clinical depression, this state of mind and body can limit someone from living their best life. Thank goodness, depression is a very treatable condition. Whether one goes to see a psychotherapist to talk through their issues, or is prescribed appropriate medications from a psychiatrist to help with the physiological components of the disease, depression can be manageable. So, can yoga be helpful in this mix? Absolutely! Remember, the continuum of depression is quite broad, but in some cases, yoga can be considered a complimentary treatment source for those who have depression.
How Does Yoga Help With Depression?
Although yoga is mostly thought of as a physical practice, there are components to the experience that taps into other parts of the self that are beyond the physical. It's not like you're lying on the proverbial psychiatrist couch doing yoga poses. Instead, your complimentary treatment is done on the simple yoga mat. But how can moving from one pose to another influence the emotional being as well as the physical being?
Depression is Heavy
Energetically, depression is a dense and complex set of feelings that settle into the body and mind. Have you ever experienced depression, or known someone that has been depressed? You may recall that there is a heaviness that is attached to this deep sadness; a weighted cloud that seems to hover over you all the time. It makes it difficult to think clearly, move quickly, or get things done. One no longer feels light; the spring in your step has deflated. Instead, a wall of bricks is built that makes it nearly impossible to move forward. And in some cases, it feels like you're actually wearing that wall of bricks. That heaviness sits like a sack of rocks on your body and mind.
Yoga has the potential to lighten that heavy load. Through movement and breath work, your yoga practice can begin the process of breaking up that brick barrier. Yoga introduces the energetic shift needed to help move through the stuck feeling related to depression. In traditional treatment for depression, one may share their feelings with a therapist. The clinician, for example, will engage the person in a style of treatment that will encourage and inspire a new way to view a situation so they can move forward. A doctor or psychiatrist may prescribe a particular medication to help the chemical imbalances that can be associated with depression. With the added modality of yoga, though, the individual actually moves their body in order to stimulate a shift in mood.
Shake It Up
As mentioned, depression has a way of making a person feel heavy and stuck. These feelings store themselves in a person's bones, muscles, and organs; every part of the body can be affected by this overwhelming emotional condition. Because the physical practice of yoga deals with your muscles, bones, and internal organs, adding it to your line-up of treatment can help lead you to feeling better. Yoga literally moves you out of that stuck place. Practicing yoga opens you up; it's like putting a jack-hammer to that brick wall to create an opening. And through that opening, the feelings of despair, loss, sadness, etc. (feelings that do not serve you in the long run) are released. When this space is created, one feels light again, and it allows for healthy useful feelings to flow in (e.g. joy, gratitude, appreciation, happiness.)
Break Down That Wall
Of course, this is a process. Unfortunately, the positive effects of yoga do not happen over night. When you put that jack-hammer to the wall, it doesn't fall down with one hit to the bricks. With persistence and consistency, the wall will eventually come tumbling down. Just like when you take antidepressant medications, it takes time. Also though not always easy, patience is key to the entire treatment of depression.
Paging Doctor Yoga
So, if yoga can help with depression, are their "Yoga Doctors?" Not exactly. Although yoga can be considered a therapeutic tool and going to yoga classes can be helpful when improving your mood, you may also want to look into locating a Certified Yoga Therapist. Yes! They exist. These are yoga instructors who have gone through extensive training to use specific aspects of the yoga practice and philosophy to help treat conditions like depression. A Certified Yoga Therapist may not be that easy to find, but it's worth looking. Visit IAYT.org. This is the International Association of Yoga Therapists. You can find a roster of certified yoga therapists.
Are Their Certain Poses that Treat Depression?
When you got to a Yoga Therapist, what will you do? In some cases, you'll sit with that individual to determine the full extent of your depressive symptoms. Then, they will use techniques like Pranayama (Breath work), Meditation, Asana (Yoga Postures) and even some dietary techniques (Ayurveda) to assist you. The therapy is designed to match what YOU need. The therapist may even "prescribe" yoga for you to practice at home or when you go to a yoga class. Your may be given specific yoga poses to practice that directly target those areas of heaviness or stuck energy.
Even in cases of feeling blue or sad, know that yoga can be a reliable resource to help you out of the doldrums. Feel light again and experience the full richness of your greatest potential.