When I first started doing yoga, it was for one simple reason: I wanted to get rid of my anxiety. A friend had invited me to a yoga class, and she said it might help with my restlessness, my inability to sit still, and maybe even my depression. I know; I was all over the map.
I didn’t really hold out much hope. I had taken up meditation in college to relieve my anxiety and depression, and although it had worked well, I had let my practice lapse.
For any of you who have tried to maintain a meditation practice, this probably sounds familiar.
Anyway, I tried really hard to “begin again,” but every time I sat to meditate, I felt like I was crawling out of my skin. So, I was open to just about anything that might give me back some of the stability I had experienced with meditation.
I decided to go to the yoga class, and I fell in love! At the end of that first class, I was able to relax for the first time in months. The calming influence of moving my body was a revelation. I started attending regularly and was amazed at the changes I was observing in my mental state. And, I could actually sit still long enough to meditate again.
Moving Through Emotions
As I continued to practice, I discovered how versatile yoga could be. When I was anxious or afraid, my body welcomed a fast-paced movement practice. It allowed me to move into a slower and more easeful space. When I was depressed, I could start really slowly, sometimes with just a few deep breaths, and then move on to a more active practice, which would lift my mood. Wherever I started, I could then move into a meditation practice that led me to let go, at least a little bit.
As I dove deeper into these practices, I realized that when you put meditation and yoga together, they can offer a clear path to improved mental health.
A Yoga Practice for Depression
Following is a gentle heart-opening yoga practice that I have found to be incredibly helpful to lift the fog of depression.
- Lying on the floor, on a mat, or a blanket, feel the support of the earth beneath you.
- Take three deep, full breaths, expanding the lung and heart area.
- Relax your breath and slowly bring your knees to your chest. Rock from side to side, then back and forth, and make little circles on your back to release any tension in the low back.
- Bring your feet back to the floor with your knees bent and pointing toward the ceiling.
- Pause to feel the sensations of your body.
- Next, take a deep breath in, press into your feet, and lift your pelvis into bridge pose.
- Let out a long breath and return your pelvis to the floor.
- Repeat 2 times.
- Now, return to bridge pose and hold the pose for several breaths, or until you feel the need to release back to the floor.
- Pause as long as you want to feel the energy move through your body, and notice if there is any more spaciousness in the heart region.
- Once again, hug your knees to your chest and give your back a little love.
- Finally, stretch out with your feet hip-width apart, your arms by your sides, your head and neck relaxed, and rest in the corpse pose. (You can also place a rolled-up blanket under your knees and under your chest across your shoulder blade area.)
- Rest here as long as you like.
You might also be interested in our 4-week class focusing on heart-centered movement and meditation: Reclaim Your Wholeness. We’re here to support you in your journey!