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Yoga for Depression

By Richard Rosen

YogaForDepression
The word "depression" covers a wide range of conditions, from long-standing and severe clinical or major depression to shorter-term and episodic mild depression, also called dysthymic disorder, to situational depression brought on by a major life change, such as the death of a spouse, job loss, divorce.

Many different therapies are available for depression, including anti-depressants and psychotherapy. Studies indicate that regular exercise too, including yoga asanas and breathing, can help some people ease the symptoms of mild to moderate forms of depression.

Of course, one major hurdle in using exercise to alleviate depression is motivation, or lack of it. Most depressed people don't really feel much like getting out of bed in the morning, much less exercising. Then too, failure to see the exercise program through can make a depressed person feel even worse. So start off slowly, and be sure to choose an exercise that you really enjoy; if possible, exercise with a supportive partner or group. Try to exercise at least three times a week.

Depression Sequence

Minimum time: 40 minutes
Maximum time: 70 minutes

  1. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
    Support your back torso on a rolled blanket positioned below and parallel to your spine. (Total time: 3 to 5 minutes)
  2. Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose)
    Use a strap to hold the raised leg in place. Hold each side for 1 to 2 minutes. (Total time: 2 to 4 minutes)
  3. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
    Use a bolster or block to support the head. (Total time: 1 to 2 minutes)
  4. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
    Support your head and crossed forearms supported on a padded chair seat. (Total time: 1 to 3 minutes)
  5. Sirsasana (Headstand)
    Intermediate students should perform the full pose for a total time of 3 to 5 minutes. Bring your feet back to the floor slowly together if possible, either with straight knees or bent, with an exhalation, and stand in Standing Forward Bend for 30 seconds before coming up. (Total time: 3 minutes)
  6. Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
    Supported on a chair. Pad the chair seat either with a sticky mat or folded blanket. Then slide your legs through the space between the chair back and seat, and sit on the back edge of the seat facing the chair back. Grip the chair legs just below the chair back and, with an exhalation, lean into a backbend. The front edge of the seat should cross your back torso just under your shoulder blades. Keep your knees bent and feet on the floor. Support the back of your head, either on a bolster or a block. You can continue to hold the chair legs, stretch your arms overhead, or slip your arms underneath the seat between the chair legs and grip the back rung. Be sure to breathe smoothly.

    To come up, grip the chair legs just below the chair back, and pull yourself up with an exhalation. Try to lead to movement of your torso with your chest, not your head. (Total time: 3 to 5 minutes)

  7. Seated Twist
    Continue to sit reversed through the chair, twist to the right with an exhalation, hold for 30 seconds, then twist to the left for 30 seconds. Repeat three times to each side, each time holding for 30 seconds. (Total time: 3 minutes)
  8. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
    Place a blank under the shoulders for support. Repeat three times, each time for 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Total time: 2 to 3 minutes)
  9. Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)
    Follow Shoulderstand with Halasana (Plow Pose). Intermediate students should do full Plow with their feet on the floor, beginners can do Plow with their feet resting on a chair seat. (Total time: 1 to 2 minutes)
  10. Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend)
    Support the head either on a bolster laid across your extended leg, or if you're less flexible, on the front edge of a padded chair seat. Hold each side for 1 to 3 minutes. (Total time: 2 to 6 minutes)
  11. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Pose)
    Allow the torso supported on a bolster, and shoulders and head resting lightly on the floor. Keep your knees bent and feet on the floor. (Total time: 3 to 5 minutes)
  12. Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose)
    Pelvis is supported on a bolster or rolled blanket. Be sure to slide off the support before your turn to your side. (Total time: 3 to 5 minutes)
  13. Reclining Conqueror Ujjayi
    Lie on a blanket support to open your chest, with long, smooth, full inhalations and exhalations. (Total time: 3 to 5 minutes)
  14. Savasana (Corpse Pose)
    Come off your blanket support and lay your back torso flat on the floor. Support your bent knees on a bolster. (Total time: 8 to 10 minutes)
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