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Yoga Poses Scientifically Proven to Ease Depression

Yoga Poses Scientifically Proven to Ease Depression

Long gone are the days when yoga was considered more as a hobby. Now, it is a wonder drug that helps millions to relieve the symptoms of daily stress. The advantages of yoga – low cost, great calming ability, and improvement of mental health – make it a natural anti-depressant that can help men and women, young and old, regardless of the fitness level. While for the past decade the science has explored many of both physical and mental benefits of doing yoga, today we focus our attention on one fresh study that has a lot of recommendations for yoga devotees and those struggling with depression. 

The Study
To identify the poses recommended by science, we are going to use a study titled Treating Major Depression With Yoga: A Prospective, Randomized, Controlled Pilot Trial published in PLOS ONE Journal earlier this year. It was completed by a group of scientists from the University of California, Johns Hopkins University, and Cornell University. The main purpose of the study was to examine how an 8-week hatha yoga intervention impacted people with mild to major depression. To achieve this purpose, the researchers recruited 38 adults who were diagnosed with depression.

According to the results, the group who practiced yoga during the study period exhibited a considerable decline in depression scores than the group who did not. The decline was statistically and clinically significant, so the study concluded that the yoga intervention can serve as a tool for reducing depression severity.

Recommendations on Yoga Poses: Below is the specific hatha yoga sequence used by the researchers in the study. 

Breath Regulation

  • Ujjayi (Victorious Breath)
  • Bhastrika (Bellows Breath)
  • Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
  • Brahmari (Bumblebee Breath)

Mindful Poses & Movement

  • Ardhakati Chakrasana (Half Waist Wheel
  • Pose)
  • Ardha Chakrasana (Half Wheel Pose)
  • Pada Hastasana (Hands to Feet Pose)
  • Bhujungasana (Cobra Pose)
  • Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
  • Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)
  • Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
  • Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
  • Balasana (Child Pose)
  • Vakrasana (Twisted Pose)
  • Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

Final Deep Relaxation

  • Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

Now that we know what poses were effective for battling depression, we can turn our attention to them and learn how they help. The following section reviews some of the poses used in the study.

Breath Regulation Poses
“These poses improve your ability to focus, settle stress, rejuvenate the nervous system, restore the balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and support respiratory functions,” says Matt Curry, an in-house yoga teacher from “They are a perfect tool to calm a worrying or overactive mind.”

Ujjayi (Victorious Breath)

  • Sit up tall. The spine should be straight
  • Seal your lips
  • Begin breathing in and out through your nose
  • Each inhalation should be slightly deeper than normal. The exhalation should be slow and sound like “HAAAAH.”

Bhastrika (Bellows Breath)

  • Sit up tall. The spine should be straight
  • Relax and take several deep breaths through your nose. With each exhale, your belly
  • should be expanded fully
  • Start to exhale forcefully through your nose and follow by forceful inhaling.
  • While your belly moves in and out, you must keep your head, neck, chest, and shoulders still.

Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

  • Sit up tall with your spine straight
  • Bring your right palm right in front of your face while the left palm rests comfortably on your lap
  • Bring the pointer finger and the middle finger between the eyebrows
  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose
  • Use your left thumb to close your left nostril. Inhale through the right nostril slowly
  • Use the ring finger to close the right nostril
  • Retain your breath for a brief pause
  • Open your left nostril and exhale
  • Inhale though the left nostril
  • Hold both right and left nostrils closed with the thumb and the ring finger
  • Open the right nostril and exhale
  • Repeat at least 5 cycles.

Mindful Poses & Movement

Mindful poses teach to focus on present, dissolve tensions, build strength, and increase mobility.

Bhujungasana (Cobra Pose)

  • Lie prone of the floor and stretch
  • Press the tops of the thighs and feet into the floor
  • Inhale and straighten your arms to lift the chest
  • Firm the shoulder blades against your back and lift through the top of the sternum

Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)

  • Lie supine on the floor
  • Bend your knees and set our feet on the floor
  • Exhale and push the tailbone upward while pressing inner feet and arms into the floor
  • Inner feet and thighs should be kept parallel
  • Lift your buttocks until the things are parallel with the floor
  • Lift your chin and press the top of the sternum toward it
  • Stay still for up to 60 seconds. Release with an exhalation.

Final Deep Relaxation Pose
Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

  • Place your body in a neutral position (e.g., lie supine on the floor, relaxed)
  • Lift the skull away from the back of the neck. Ears should be equidistant from the shoulders
  • Bring your arms up and release them to the floor. Stretch them away and rest their backs on the floor
  • Shoulder blades should be resting comfortably
  • Spread the collarbones
  • Relax by pacifying the sense organs
  • Stay in the pose for at least 5 minutes

Time for Yoga! If you are experiencing depression or just want some relaxation, hatha yoga is the easy and proven tool that offers a wide range of benefits. 

By Lucy Benton
Lucy Benton is a writing coach, an editor who finds her passion in expressing own thoughts as a blogger. She is constantly looking for the ways to improve her skills and expertise. Also Lucy has her own blog ProWritingPartner where you can check her last publications. If you’re interested in working with Lucy , you can find her on FaceBook and Twitter.

Try these classes to combat depression:

Yoga for Depression: Flow into Happiness with Maria Garre

Yoga for Depression & Anxiety with Ira Israel

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