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How Yoga Can Help Relieve Depression

Practice Mind/Body Connection to Feel Better
  -- By Stepfanie Romine, Certified Yoga Teacher
I struggled with bouts of depression and anxiety in my teens and early 20s. It was in the middle one of those battles, during my junior year of college, that I discovered yoga. A friend saw a flier for an eight-week yoga session at the campus rec center. Since I hated sweating and would only run if I were chased, I thought yoga sounded like a good form of exercise.
 
The room, usually populated by step aerobics and dance classes, felt cavernous with only a few dozen students in it. The class was 90 minutes long, in the late afternoon. I don't remember much about it now, but I remember that the "nap" I took during final relaxation left me feeling peaceful and calm and offered a rare respite from my roller coaster of emotions.
 
The class ended, and I continued practicing. I couldn't explain why, but yoga made me feel better. Since 2007, I have practiced yoga regularly, and my depression has been held at bay, along with a lot of my anxiety.
 
I'm not alone in finding solace in a yoga practice. Today, more than 20 million people practice yoga, according to a 2012 Yoga Journal study, and more people are taking up the practice to improve their health and relieve stress than to get fit.
 
Yoga was created to help people sit quietly, to tire the body so the mind could rest, and as such can be a useful therapy for those coping with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. The yoga and mental health connection is strong:
If you're interested in starting a yoga practice, talk to your doctor and check out our beginner's guide and find out which type of yoga is right for you.

Tips for Practicing Yoga When You Have Depression

To get started with a simple yoga practice here are some helpful videos and poses to try:

8 Beginner Yoga Poses
Yoga 101: Poses for Beginners
8 Seated Yoga Poses You Can Do from a Chair
5 Yoga Poses to Help You Rest Better
14-Minute Basic Yoga Workout Video
10-Minute Yoga Fusion Workout Video
20-Minute Yogilates Routine Video
How to Use Yoga Straps Video
Intro to Yoga Blocks Video
The 13 Best Yoga Poses for Runners
10 Yoga Poses to Strengthen and Stretch
5 Minutes to Less Stress

Sources
Balasubramaniam M, Telles S and Doraiswamy PM (2013) "Yoga on our minds: a systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatric disorders." Front. Psychiatry 3:117. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2012.00117

Chris C. Streeter, MD, Theodore H. Whitfield, ScD, and J. Eric Jensen, PhD, "Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study," Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2010 November; 16(11): 1145-1152.
 
 Moliver N., Mika E., Chartrand M., Huassmann R., Khalsa S. "Yoga Experience as a Predictor of Psychological Wellness in Women over 45 Years." International Journal of Yoga. 2013 Jan:6(1):11-9.
 
Yoga Journal, "Yoga in America," www.yogajournal.com, accessed on July 15, 2013.
 
This article has been reviewed and approved by Nicole Nichols, Certified Personal Trainer.