Yoga, pranayama and meditation for depression

Diaphragmatic breath is the most important step in healing depression. Establishing a continuous rhythm of breath is important. Often people with depression pause at the end of the exhalation which further dampens the nervous system.  Eliminating the pauses and having an equal length of exhalation and inhalation promotes healing. Extending the exhalation longer than the inhalation is contraindicated for depression. Be sure the breath is of equal length. An easy way to do this is to count the length of each breath and match them or to synchronize the breath with your steps while walking.

Alternate Nostril Breathing is the next essential practice for equalizing emotion and energy. It is simple, easy to learn and extremely powerful. It balances and brings emotions to center and as such is good for depression, anxiety, agitation, bi-polar disorder and general well-being and joy.

Begin asana practice with slow poses that don’t require much energy and that open the heart and chest to create space for breath and movement. Gradually move into more active energizing poses.

Standing poses from tadasana are good to build confidence and energize the body.

Synchronize the breath with the movements as you move into and out of the poses. Work with the smoothness and continuous movement of the breath and body together.

To counteract the shut down or closed in feeling of depression, keep the gaze focused up and out. An example during Warrior 2 would be to gaze over the hand into the distance.

Restorative poses with eyes closed and long holds aren’t especially helpful. Energizing pranayama practices like Bhastrika and Kapalabhati are recommended as is any vigorous movement and exercise. The stuck energy of depression responds well to energizing yoga because it also calms and balances the system at the same time.

Meditation: working with the thoughts through the discipline of meditation can help see through the negative ruminations more common in depressive women in particular. Long periods of silent meditation are not helpful for someone who is depressed. Instead work with guided relaxations and meditations that focus on continuous breathing to keep the mind focused and alert. Many people enjoy chanting and mantra.