It is common to feel the blues from time to time, and when this happens it can be healing to simply feel and be with your emotions. Acute feelings of depression can be sign that your body needs rest and your mind needs a break. Take a nap, read a book, let yourself be lazy and accept what you are feeling. If you are experience depression for more than a few days, however, you may need to take action and work on moving through it.
Yoga’s regulating and energizing properties can help alleviate many of the symptoms of mild depression*. yoga postures will activate and move prana in the body, open the heart center, stimulate the nervous system and balance the body-mind-spirit. If you are mostly feeling frustration, use postures that open the insides of the legs (bound angle, standing angle) and stretch the sides of the torso (half circle, half moon). For feelings of sadness and grief, focus on postures that open the chest and inner arms (fish, threading the needle, boat). For low motivation or low energy use back and forward bending postures (cobra, forward fold, sun salutations). A slow, gentle practice is recommended; do not overexert yourself or you may end up more tired than you began. Practice as often as possible; daily is most beneficial.
Other yogic exercises are very effective at moving through depression. Practice Kapalabhati pranayama to energize the body and Nadi Sodhana Pranayama to reduce stress and anxiety. Meditation reduces stress, calms the mind, reduces negativity and creates a positive attitude.
Severe or chronic depression (over four weeks) needs to be treated by a medical professional. If you are having thoughts of suicide, get help immediately, calling 911 if necessary. If you are not sure of the severity of your depression, take this quick on-line quiz.
*Yoga is contraindicated with severe depression or other serious mental disorders. A yoga practice should be used to supplement conventional therapy, not replace it.
A complete list of postures and practices that benefit depression is now available in our premium yoga therapy section.