yoga and meditation for depression: the super basics

It seems more and more I’m hearing stories of people being referred to yoga by their sister/therapist/best friend from college/naturopath/six year old who attends a super progressive grade school/etc. to find relief from depression, anxiety, and the like.

The aforementioned topics are pillars of why YTC was founded in the first place, are experience on a sliding scale by most everyone at some point or another, and I am SUPER commonly asked things like:

“Is yoga good for me if I’m sad?"
”What yoga poses will help my anxiety?”
”I probably shouldn’t do yoga if I’m depressed, since it just makes you calm, right?”

For these reasons, and in response to these questions and all the rest like them, I’m here to offer some super basic answers.

This particular post is for people curious about yoga basics related to depression. If you’re experiencing anxiety you may find more helpful information here.

As you read on, please keep in mind these are “blanket tips” based on my studies and experiences. Still, what works for me may not work for you. What works for many may not work for you. Depression comes in all shapes and sizes, so I’d encourage you to try things, see what works for you, continue practicing what does, and let go of what doesn’t — no judgement necessary. With all that said, here we go!

Rima Kruciene

Rima Kruciene

If you’re feeling depressed:

DO practice more backbends and energizing inversions, such as baby cobra and dolphin pose, as they are enlivening, SNS-stimualting asanas
DO practice 2:1 breathing, aka a simple breath technique where your inhale is twice as long as exhale, to bring more vitality into the body
DO attend “vinyasa” style yoga classes, as long as you can keep your breath and alignment in check, to get the blood flowing and the mind activated

DON’T linger too long in forward folds, such as standing forward fold and child’s pose, as they are introverting, calming asanas
DON’T practice too much 1:2 breathing, as this is a very calming breath technique
DON’T spend too much time in Restorative or Yin style yoga classes, as they can be extremely introverting

As a final note, I just want to hammer in that these are super basic, blanket tips to get someone feeling depressed headed in the right yogic direction for their state of mind. To say do more backbends and inversions certainly isn’t equal to saying only do backbends and inversions. Yoga is truly about balance. If you can think of anxiety as +1, balance as 0, and depression as -1, these tips are simply designed to move you more from a -1 to into a state of balance, your “zero”. If you overdo it, you’ll skip right over balance and head into an anxious, stressed, or even manic state. Listen to your body, notice how you feel after the yoga classes you take, the yoga poses you do, the visualizations, the meditations — pay attention to begin to figure out what works for YOU.

Kala MacDonald