Downward dog delivers depression relief

If you’ve ever gotten caught in a downward spiral of depression, you know it’s a desperate place to be.

Your heart is heavy, your mind is cloudy and you feel like you have a lead weight tied to your body. It’s hard to move or think, let alone function in your day-to-day life.

So, how do you dig yourself out of this depressive hole?

Well, the truth is, there’s no silver bullet solution. Antidepressants don’t work for about 40 percent of people who try them. And there’s no single herb or supplement that will lift your depression instantaneously.

But there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to improve your symptoms significantly over the long term, while also improving your overall health. You just have to stick to them and trust that making these changes could eventually make your depression disappear for good…

One of the simplest and most effective lifestyle changes for dealing with depression is adopting a yoga practice. In fact, a few sessions of beginner’s yoga per week could do more good for your depressive symptoms than you probably ever realized…

More yoga equal less depression

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Boston University Medical Center found that practicing Iyengar yoga a few times per week can significantly reduce your symptoms of depression. Iyengar yoga is a style of yoga that focuses on precise postural alignment and breath control.

The study included 30 people between the ages of 18 and 64, all of whom had major depressive disorder (MDD). Researchers divided participants into two groups. One group did three 90-minute Iyengar classes per week along with four 30-minute yoga sessions per week at home, and the other group did two 90-minute Iyengar classes per week along with three 30-minute yoga sessions per week at home. The yoga classes all included 20 minutes of deep breathing too.

After three months, people in both groups experienced remarkable benefits. They all reduced their depression symptoms by at least 50 percent according to a depression-screening questionnaire they took at the end of the study. Of course, people who practiced yoga more frequently experienced the greatest relief from their symptoms, but both groups ended the study substantially less depressed.

This is far from the first time yogic exercises and breathwork have been proven to help with depression. In fact, a 2016 study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that a type of yogic breathing meditation known as Sudarshan kriya yoga packs a punch against major depressive disorder too.

Lifestyle changes that ease depression

If you’re not sure how to start a regular yoga practice, finding an easy, beginner’s level class is good first step. Or you can try these stress and depression-relieving yoga exercises from Easy Health Options contributor Dr. Mark Wiley.

Besides starting a regular yoga practice and doing daily breathing exercises, you can also make other simple lifestyle changes that are scientifically-proven to relieve depression, like:


  1. Twice weekly yoga classes plus home practice effective in reducing symptoms of depression.” — MedicalXpress. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  2. Chris C. Streeter, et al. “Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder with Iyengar Yoga and Coherent Breathing: A Randomized Controlled Dosing Study.” — The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2017.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and