Depression – How Yoga Can Help

Depression is a serious and dangerous problem in human mental health and well-being. The impact of depression extends to all areas of life and can harm a career, ruin relationships with others, and worsen overall quality of life.


Is it possible with yoga and meditation to treat or reduce symptoms of depressive disorder? Yoga and meditation are now being considered as alternative treatments for depression. Research has been conducted on this topic and it has already been proven that the practice can be used in the treatment of depressive disorders. Depression and the possibilities of yoga for its treatment is the topic of this article.

Disease certificate

Depression is defined as a mental disorder of mood and is a complex, multilevel disease. According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of the disease is more than 264 million people. And according to forecasts, by 2030, depressive disorder will come out on top among the diseases of civilization.

Depression is often referred to as periods of feeling of depression, experiencing sad events that are a normal part of life. Depression is not just sadness and the experience of everyday troubles, it is a disorder that changes the process of thinking, feelings and determines a person’s actions.

The diagnosis is determined if a person’s condition is characterized by five or more symptoms: depressed mood, loss of interest in favorite activities, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, thoughts of suicide, psychomotor slowdown or agitation, impaired appetite, sleep disturbances, energy disturbances, and impaired concentration. Without treatment, an episode of the disease can last 6-12 months, after recovery, relapses are possible.

According to modern hypotheses, the onset of depression is based on complex complex phenomena: chemical imbalance of brain substances and pathological changes in the cognitive, neutrotransmitter, immune and neuroendocrine spheres. Most often, depression is caused by a combination of biological, social, and psychological factors. Risk factors include injury, chronic illness, alcohol and substance abuse, and severe stressful events.

If left untreated, depression can develop into serious illness. Understanding the reasons behind the depression can help you overcome the problem and get better. Seek help if there are troubling symptoms.

What you can do to make yourself feel better

In a state of depression, it may seem that there is no gap. However, there are many things you can do to improve your mood. Try to outline a few small but achievable goals and start moving towards them today.


When discouraged and depressed, the very idea of ​​doing sports at home or going to workout can seem daunting and impossible. However, it is the most powerful remedy: regular exercise is effective in improving mood and is powerful in combating the symptoms of depression.

To prevent mood disorders, you need regular physical activity at least 3-5 times a week for 30 minutes. Vigorous physical activity stimulates the production of endorphins, which improve mood, and reduces cortisol levels at night, which allows us to sleep well and wake up easily in the morning.

If training is too big a step, then you can start with a simpler physical activity: take a walk, do a few dance movements to your favorite music, do a couple of your favorite asanas, or start dusting. Even simple housework will have a beneficial effect on the internal state.

Keep in touch with the world

If possible, get out into nature every day, go outside, or find opportunities to interact with animals. The more you become involved in the life around you, the better you will feel.

Consider becoming a volunteer. Helping others helps you take your mind off your mind and make you feel useful and involved in good deeds.

Adjust your diet

For the health of the nervous system and reducing the risk of developing depression, it is necessary to provide the body with vitamins of group B, D, omega-3 fats. Foods that negatively affect mood – alcohol, caffeine, trans fats, sugar. If possible, eliminate them from the diet and add more vegetables, fruits, berries and herbs.

The mechanism of development of depression

In order to understand how we can influence the course of the disorder with the help of yoga techniques, let’s look at its features, the process of origin and development.

Depressive disorder is a complex, multilevel disease. From the point of view of the behavioral aspect, the disease develops with an imbalance of positive and negative emotions. A trigger for the development of depression can be a situation when there are not enough positive emotions, and an overabundance of negative ones due to the influence of stress and other external factors. It should be noted that the most unfavorable factor is not a one-time stress situation, but a prolonged systematic impact of stressful events. It is impossible to adapt to constant stress; ultimately, the body switches to a regime of chronic activation of defense mechanisms with their subsequent depletion.

The limbic structures of the brain, which are the substrate for the manifestation of general states of the body, become the main site of action for negative emotions. Significant negative events, constant psycho-emotional stress and chronic stress trigger a complex of reactions that lead to the development of depression.

One of the leading pathological mechanisms in depressive disorder is dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is the main neuroendocrine system of the body, which is responsible for maintaining the constancy of the internal environment and adapting to external changes, including the mechanisms of survival under stress. The system consists of the nucleus of the hypothalamus, the adrenal cortex and the pituitary gland.

In a healthy body, in response to stress, a cascade of reactions with the release of glucocorticoids unfolds (in humans, this is cortisol). By interacting with receptors in various structures of the brain and body tissues, cortisol feedback inhibits the release of the corticotropin releasing factor. So within a few minutes, the stress is reduced.

In the case of a depressive disorder, the mechanism of stress regulation by activating the HPA axis is disrupted. First of all, there is an increased secretion of glucocorticoids and a change in the properties of cortisol. There is also an increase in the level of corticotropin releasing factor. And finally, the negative feedback from the hippocampal neurons to the cells that produce the corticotropin-releasing factor is disrupted. At the same time, the number of glucocorticoid receptors decreases and their sensitivity to cortisol worsens.

Long-term exposure to glucocorticoids becomes neurotoxic. The hippocampus has a high sensitivity to glucocorticoids; disturbances in the functioning of receptors in its cells cause disinhibition of the HPA axis.

Hyperfunction of the HPA axis is manifested by excessive secretion of cortisol, as a result of which a person may develop hypercortisolemia *. But there is another unpleasant consequence – an increase in the level of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). Corticotropin-releasing hormone is a hormone that activates the production and release of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) *, which in turn regulates the synthesis and secretion of adrenal hormones. CRH is synthesized in the hippocampus, hypothalamus and blue spot neurons and has a neuromodulatory effect on the functional work of the corresponding parts of the brain. With prolonged exposure, CRH damages neurons and impairs brain function. The negative impact of CRH also extends to neurotrophic factors in the brain – the hormone is able to alter their production and activity.

Another factor aggravating the development of the disease is the hyperfunction of proinflammatory cytokines and the triggering of a neuroinflammatory process in the brain. Cytokines interfere with the movement of the complex, which consists of cortisol and glucocorticoid receptor, into the cell. Cytokine signals induce the formation of quinolonic acid from tryptophan (which is a precursor of serotonin), which, together with reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, triggers oxidative stress. The cells are in a state of overexcitation, which in turn causes their demyelination and death. Taking into account the fact of insufficiency of the neurotrophic factor, neurogenesis is noticeably weakened. Together, weakened neurogenesis and a lack of neurotrophic factor contribute to the death of cells in the hippocampus and a decrease in its volume.

Thus, stress is one of the leading triggers for the disorder. Due to the prevalence of destructive mechanisms over protective ones, the disease develops. Reducing stress early can prevent the cascade of reactions described above. And it is timely prevention that is an effective means of preventing the development of depression and subsequent relapses.

Depression and yoga

A review of studies on the effects of yoga practice on depression symptoms confirms its effectiveness as monotherapy and as an adjunct to traditional treatments. Yoga practice is associated with a low risk profile and is easily adaptable to a wide range of users, including the elderly. Yoga methods are applicable for the treatment of increased anxiety and depression.

The combination of bodywork and meditation practice gives us two important ingredients for relieving the symptoms of depression: returning to the present moment and freeing the mind.

In yoga therapy for depressive states, several elements are used: physical activity (asanas), awareness from an unbiased observer position, regulation of breathing, deep relaxation and withdrawal from mental and physical activity after exercising in a resting position. Each of these elements contains an active ingredient – its own antidepressant mechanism that affects mood. Combining all these elements, the practice has a synergistic effect.

From the point of view of yoga philosophy, human suffering is caused by mental disturbances. The goal of yoga is to stop them and achieve liberation from suffering.

Until a person realizes his true self and the meaning of life, he is in the dark and continues to suffer. Consistent practice of 8 steps of Ashtanga yoga leads to awareness of one’s own Self . Having gone all the way, a person realizes himself as an immortal soul, in a state of bliss and possessing true knowledge.

If you limit yourself only to the development of the physical side of the body and practice Hatha Yoga, then like any physical activity, the practice will have a positive effect on the mood.

The high social acceptance of yoga, the availability of practice, low cost and relative simplicity make it possible to consider yoga as an alternative to traditional treatment. Choosing yoga as a lifestyle can change behavioral responses, prevent the development of the disorder, and get out of a depressive routine.

Good luck and good luck!


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