Yoga is strong medicine for depression

Depression is a dark cloud in the lives of millions of people.

Yoga is a group of ancient Indian practices that includes physical posture, mantra recitation, specific breathing techniques and discipline to effect changes in the body and mind.

So what’s the connection?

Personal experience and several recent studies show the effectiveness of yoga practice on reducing the signs and symptoms of depression.

If you or someone you know suffers from depression, this means you have a natural, safe, side effect-free option to getting your life back…

Are you depressed?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines depression is “a common but serious mood disorder that causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating or working.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide. When left to become chronic, depression can wreck lives. Worse, depression leads to suicide, which causes 800,000 deaths annually.

Though not everyone experiences all of the signs and symptoms of depression, the NIMH warns that if you’ve been experience any of the following signs and symptoms daily for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Yoga offers relief from depression

According to studies presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, the practice of yoga lessens the signs and symptoms of depression. Several different studies were presented at the convention on the positive effects of yoga in people suffering depression.

Study 1 — One study included 23 male veterans who two hatha yoga classes a week for eight weeks. The conclusion: “participants with elevated depression scores before the yoga program had a significant reduction in depression symptoms after the eight weeks.”

Study 2 — A study investigated Bikram yoga in 52 women, age 25-45. Over half were to engage in yoga twice per week for eight week, and the other half did not. Depression levels were assessed at start and weeks three, six and nine. The conclusion: “eight weeks of Bikram yoga significantly reduced symptoms of depression compared with the control group.”

Study 3 — Another study also looked at twice-weekly Bikram yoga classes over an eight week period. The conclusion: “Bikram yoga significantly reduced symptoms of depression and improved other secondary measures including quality of life, optimism, and cognitive and physical functioning.”

Several more studies on yoga and depression were also presented at the APA convention.

Pose to end depression

These studies show that engaging in yoga at least twice per week over an eight week period is a low-cost, non-invasive and natural way to reduce the signs and symptoms of depression. Moreover, the research indicates that yoga is a promising intervention for patients with “chronic, treatment-resistant depression.”

You can follow along with these great yoga videos:

Also, one of my favorite books on the topic is A Teacher’s Guide for Beginning Yoga. This manual of easy but fundamental yoga poses is designed to help students learn the essential postures and preliminary breathing practices of the spiritual discipline of Yoga.

If you suffer from depression, or know someone who does, get involved in yoga. Join a class, watch videos and read books all in an effort to make a shift in your life.

Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.