Yoga is so much more than a fitness regimen; this ancient practice is all about soothing the mind and body through a unique set of physical poses, breathing exercises and meditative practices.
What’s more, researchers have discovered that yoga can be effective in treating depression by boosting the levels of a specific chemical substance in our brains, known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or simply GABA, which is responsible for promoting a sense of calmness and relaxation within our minds and bodies. Scientists have discovered that GABA levels are higher in the brains of those who practice yoga regularly when compared to others who practice various forms of strenuous physical exercise such as jogging or running.
In this article, I will share the best yoga poses for depression and anxiety. Most yoga specialists and researchers recommend spending three hours each week doing these yoga poses in order to fight off depression and anxiety. After 12 weeks of regular yoga practice, the levels of GABA in the brain will increase, leading to mood elevation and alleviation of depression and anxiety.
1. Balasana (Child's Pose)
Balasana, better known as Child's Pose, is great for relieving depression, anxiety and fatigue. It acts via stretching the muscles of your lower back, buttocks and hips. Here is how it is performed:
- Sit with your knees bent and the top of your feet touching the floor. Rest the palms of your hands on your thighs.
- Bend down slowly lowering your torso, so that your chest and belly rest between your thighs, and continue to bend until your forehead and nose touch the floor.
- Stretch your arms backward, beside your legs, with your palms facing upwards.
- Now, take 5 to 10 deep long breaths. Relax and try to inhale and exhale as deeply as you can.
2. Bhujangasana (Modified Cobra Pose)
Bhujangasana, or Modified Cobra Pose, is very effective in elevating your mood and boosting your energy and acts through strengthening the muscles of the back. Here is how to perform it:
- While in Child's Pose, slowly extend your feet backward to lie stretched with your face facing the floor.
- Press your forehead and toes lightly against the floor, while gently resting your palms on both sides of your rib cage. Bend your elbows and rotate them slightly towards the center of your spine, as if you are attempting to hug your back.
- Breathe in slowly as you lift your rib cage from the floor. Press your palms gently against the floor, so that you mainly use your back muscles to pull your chest and shoulders up.
- Relax your shoulders lifting your palms off the floor. Broaden your hands across your shoulders extending them forwards. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply twice, while in this position.
- During exhalation, press your palms back against the floor, while gently and slowly lowering your chest back to the floor.
3. Marjayasana (Cat Pose)
Image source: Yoga.com
The cat pose is a great asana to help you relax. It increases the flexibility of the back and it also alleviates depression and anxiety. Here is how to perform it correctly:
- Support your body on your knees and hands. The distance between your hands should be equal to the width of your shoulders and your knees should be at a distance that is equal to the distance between your hips. Spread your fingers and gaze directly towards the floor.
- Inhale slowly and deeply. Exhale deeply while pulling your stomach backward and contracting the muscles of your buttock. During exhalation, press your palms against the floor to relax your shoulders.
- Elevate your back towards the ceiling, so that your spines are rounded.
- Flex your neck towards your chest, so that you can see the floor between your feet.
4. Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall)
Image source: ashleyneese.com
This pose is great for insomnia and anxiety. It can also promote relaxation via re-routing of the circulation of the brain.
5. Shirshasana (Headstand)
Although this pose can be difficult to perform, it has been shown to alleviate depression, insomnia and anxiety via promotion blood circulation to the brain.
6. Virabhadrasana (Warrior I Pose)
This simple yet very effective pose strengthens the core and leg muscles.
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