Yoga for anxiety and depression


As we all know, Yoga, the ancient practice of exercises focuses both on the physical and mental well being. The exercises or asanas help in improving flexibility and strength of the body, while the breathing exercises which are practiced along with the asanas improve the mental health and provides relaxation. Yoga has now become very popular and is practiced all over the world with some variations depending on the different schools of thought of those promoting yoga.


Though yoga is not the panacea for all the diseases that occur in human beings, it has very well structured exercises which have been proven to be beneficial for a large number of ailments. Yoga can be practiced even when under medication. The exercises tone the body and the increased flexibility creates a sense of well being. The breathing exercises in yoga are especially relaxing and helps calm the mind. It is for this reason that meditation techniques are beneficial for people who suffer from anxiety and depression.

Yoga to combat anxiety and depression

Our stressed lifestyle is the most common reason for anxiety and depression. Stress at the work place, family problems, financial problems all lead to anxiety and depression. When workplaces are far away and people are separated from their close friends and family, there is no one to turn to or speak with at times of stress. These factors too account for the increased number of people suffering from depression. Parents or siblings may not be close by to offer the much needed solace when one is stressed out. Though depression and anxiety disorders are different, there are some of the symptoms which are similar. In advanced stages of anxiety or depression, yoga will not help to cure the disease completely. But along with medication, if yoga postures and breathing exercises are also included, it will help improve the mental well being of people suffering from depression.

Almost all people feel low or depressed on some days due to various factors related to family, work or relationships. These are passing stages and the low tide will go away after a couple of days. But for some people these symptoms are a constant companion and refuse to go away.  The symptoms persist making it difficult for the person to continue with his or her day to day activities even when there is nothing much to worry about. Even minor stressful situations can make the person anxious.  These people are diagnosed as suffering from anxiety or depression. Some of the common symptoms of anxiety and depression are panic attacks, having trouble with sleep, feeling of worthlessness, and lack of interest in everyday activities, difficulty in concentrating on any activity, breathing problems, muscle tensions, low energy levels and fatigue. The person feels sad most of the time and is no mood to interact with friends or relatives. Though the symptoms are slightly different for anxiety and depression, most people who suffer from depression also suffer from anxiety attacks. Most of the people suffering from anxiety or depression do not understand the cause of their misery and hence there is delay in starting the treatment.


Medication and therapy are the most common lines of treatment for both anxiety and depression. Therapist can find out the root cause of the problem and suggest various therapies to treat the condition. Along with this, one of the most effective alternate therapies to treat both anxiety and depression is yoga. Patricia Walden a yoga teacher along with physician Timothy McCall, who has authored a book Yoga as medicine, conduct workshops together on yoga and depression. They have categorized depression into three types based on the three types of energy that affect the behavioral patterns. Accordingly, they have suggested yoga postures to treat anxiety and depression.  There are many postures to treat anxiety and depression symptomatically. If a person is agitated, anxious or fearful, the best yoga postures are forward bends and restorative postures. When the mind and energy are out of control, and when it is difficult to keep the mind still and concentrate, then the best yoga postures are the more difficult ones which are dynamic and invigorating. These exercises help burn excess nervous energy and keep the mind focused.  Backbends are also recommended as these open the chest to relieve anxiety and depression. As for breathing exercises, for those with depression they recommend focusing on inhalation to draw in life force and for anxiety it is better to focus on exhalation to promote a calm and peaceful mind. Once the mind becomes calm, then restorative asanas will offer the much needed rest.

Yoga in general makes us more aware of our body and mind and helps to deal with the changes that happen to our body and mind better. The instructions and breathing exercises practiced while doing yoga takes the mind away from anxiety and helps to focus the mind on the present. McCall also says that when we begin to become aware of the body, we will also begin to become aware of the mind while doing each of the exercises. The awareness can help identify any changes in the mind faster and deal with it earlier.

According to the Art of living organization, some of the common postures which are helpful to treat anxiety and depression are

  • Dhanurasana (bow pose)
  • Matyasana (fish pose)
  • Janu Shirsasana (bridge pose)
  • Sethubandhasana (bridge pose)
  • Marjariasana (cat stretch)
  • Paschimottanasana (two legged forward bends)
  • Hastapadasana (standing forward bend)
  • Adhomukha Shwanasana (downward facing dog)
  • Shirshasana (headstand)
  • Shavasana (corpse pose)

Some other postures like Balasana (child’s pose), Halasana (plow pose), Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), Prasarita Padattanasana (wide angled standing forward bend) are all said to help people suffering from anxiety and depression.

As discussed earlier, different yoga postures are beneficial for different types of depressive states. When yoga is done for therapeutic purposes like anxiety or depression, a good yoga practitioner should be able to identify the type of anxiety or depression that a person is suffering from and suggest exercises which are best suited for that particular depressive state. Hence it is very important to identify an experienced and knowledgeable teacher before you start your yoga practice, especially if you are starting yoga to treat any illness. Yoga can transform the way you feel you feel about yourself. It can give you a lot of positive energy. Combine this with proper rest and healthy food habits and your state of mind will change for the better and you will start feeling happy and experience a general feeling of well being.

Our website here describes the various types of yoga, the benefits of doing yoga, the DVDs available to help practice yoga, the accessories that can be used to make practicing yoga easier and much more. Read the articles to know everything that you ever wanted to know about yoga.