5 Ways Yoga May Help With Depression
1. Yoga Teaches Mindfulness
Mindfulness is now widely known as a cure-all for depression. It works so well it got incorporated into numerous widely accepted psychotherapies for depression such as acceptance and commitment therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. Psychotherapy aside, there are numerous ways to train yourself to be more mindful, and yoga is one of them. It also provides numerous other benefits.
2. Yoga Promotes Depression-Fighting Neurotransmitters
There are studies that show that yoga increases production of serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which are lowered in depression (Cramer, Lauche, Langhorst, & Dobos, 2013). Yoga doesn’t only work on the level of neurotransmitters; it also improves our hormonal health.
3. Yoga Corrects the Distribution of Hormones Related to Depression
Various forms of Pranayama, such as Bhastrika Pranayama, increase levels of oxytocin which decreases depression by increasing an overall feeling of well-being.
Additionally, yoga has scientifically been proven to decrease the stress hormone cortisol which has been directly associated with depression. A 2013 study (Thirthalli et al., 2013) has shown that yoga decreases serum cortisol levels in depressed individuals, whether they take medication or not. Incidentally, the same study has shown that antidepressants don’t have any influence on cortisol levels. Additionally, the same study has shown that lower levels of cortisol is correlated with decreased rates of depression. The longer you do yoga the less depressed you are.
The interesting thing is that it’s not entirely clear how decreased cortisol levels might alleviate depression. One explanation is that a lower level of cortisol increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the brain, which brings me to my next point.
4. Yoga Helps Your Brain Grow
Studies have shown that yoga increases the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) that promote the growth and differentiation of new synapses. It’s also vital for the survival of existing neurons. The increase in BDNF, which happens in yoga, is scientifically proven to decrease depression.
5. Yoga Increases Our Ability to Handle Stress
All of those things combined increases our resistance to the stresses and challenges of life. When we’re less overwhelmed, we’re also less likely to become depressed.
Check out Rick Coe’s yoga practice: Yoga Therapy for Depression.
Yoga Breathwork for Quick Sinus Relief
4 Minute Pranayama Kapalbhati Breathing Tutorial
Though it may seem counter-intuitive, breathing is another practice that can alleviate sinus discomfort. Try the following practices with a calm and relaxed demeanor, focusing on keeping your prana moving smoothly. You may wish to blow your nose, or better yet, use your neti pot before you try these exercises.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your hands on your belly. Breathe deeply into the belly, focusing on expanding the belly like a buddha, then draw the breath and energy up through your ribs, chest and shoulders. Exhale the same way, deflating your belly, chest and shoulders, and squeezing all the air out of your belly. Find your own rhythm.
Sit comfortably. Bring your right hand out in front of you, palm facing you. Fold your index and middle fingers into the palm. Place your ring finger on your left nostril to close it off. Breathe into the right nostril for two counts. Close off the right nostril with the thumb and hold the breath for two counts. Release the left nostril, exhale for two counts. Close off the left nostril and hold the breath for two counts. Try visualizing a square. If it feels uncomfortable to hold the breath, simply pause instead. Increase the count as you become comfortable, making sure that you are doing equal counts for each action.
Breath of Fire
In this practice, hold your hand over your navel, and practice forcefully exhaling out the nose repeatedly. Your belly should be pumping in and out. The force of the exhale will naturally draw in a new breath, so there is no need to inhale consciously. You may start this practice by gently panting, but it is important to eventually speed up the pace of this breath in order to stoke the “fire” of the breath.