Depression can be managed by various yoga practices and by following the yogic way of life. According to scriptures, bliss is inherent nature of all beings. But in our day to day life, we have lost this inner connection to our own source of joy and bliss. In Sanskrit, the word for health is ‘Swasthya’ which comes from two root words – ‘Swa’ which means Self and ‘Stha’ which means centered. Swasthya essentially means established in one’s own Self. According to the spiritual texts, the nature of the Self is Sat-Chit-Ananda or Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. So “Ananda’ or bliss is our inherent nature. Yet, we tend to forget this and indulge in depressive thoughts.
The first step to overcome depression is to understand the basic fact that happiness is our true nature. As embodied beings we have a source of inner bliss, which we might have ignored all our life. But, this inner joy can be tapped into by creating an inner connection with our own inner Self. This understanding gives a positive approach to life. It makes us aware of our inner thoughts and conditions. We constantly become aware of our negative thought patterns and will be able to overcome it by asserting our real nature which is full of bliss.
One of the common causes of depression is living in the past. If we observe our thought patterns, we hardly live in the present. We are either thinking of the past of hoping for the future. Both these prevent us from living in the present moment. All external and internal events cause impressions in our subconscious mind. These impressions are like a groove on an old gramophone record. When we indulge in past thoughts, these subtle grooves become activated. The mind ends up in a loop inside those grooves. The entire energy of the mind is spend in negotiating these repeated thought patterns. Many of these thought patterns are negative in nature. It may be about unhappiness caused due to loss of loved ones, loss of one’s abilities, loss in business, failures in relationships, physical and mental abuse during childhood, etc. These thought patterns create a pain body in us, on which we dwell constantly. Eventually we get disconnected from our inner blissful Self and only indulge in these depressive thoughts.
To overcome depression, Self inquiry is essential. We have to catch all those mental patterns that unconsciously put us in a depressive and negative mood. We have to shake ourselves out of these patterns. Try to live in the present moment and give the mind a pleasant and positive distraction. There are also many who get trapped into enjoying their depression. This may be surprising, but it is true. Depression can be addictive and many don’t want to come out of their depression due to inertia. This pattern has to be broken. The practice of various yoga postures and breathing techniques can definitely help us break these patterns. But more important than that is our strong intend to come out of it. Unless we consciously want to come out of it, we cannot.
At this stage we have to observe a word of caution. There are many mental conditions like psychosis, schizophrenia and acute manic-depressiveness, bipolar disorders, etc. which require medical attention. Always take the help of a psychiatrist in such situations. The practice of yogic postures, exercises, aerobics and workouts are definitely helpful, but only secondary to medical help in such cases.
Three ways to Overcome Depression
1. Develop a positive mind culture.
Understanding our true inner nature, which is filled with joy and bliss, we should try to develop a mind culture that cuts off all those factors which block the inner joy. This comes through self-introspection and trying to live in the present. We should avoid living in the past negative thought patterns. This can be done through alertness of the mind and constant vigil over our negative thoughts.
Another effective method is thought substitution and auto suggestion. This method is used by many medical practitioners to treat acute depression. When we stop dwelling on negative thoughts, there is a gap or blankness in the mind. The mind is like a devil. It cannot sit quite. So we need to give it something to munch on. The best way is to give it some positive thoughts. The positive thought can be a new hope for the future, a new project or initiative, or a prayer or even an auto-suggestion that we are strong inside and that bliss is our true inner nature. This way, whenever we get a negative thought, we substitute it with a positive thought. In due course of time, the negative thoughts lose their hold on us and we become more vibrant with fresh energy and positive outlook in life.
2. Yoga Postures can help overcome depression
Most of the yoga postures can help relieve depression. The practice of yoga asanas is done with awareness and coordinated breathing. This by itself relieves stress and anxiety, reduces high blood pressure, releases blocked energies and induces smooth flow of pranic energy in our body.
Surya Namskara or the Sun Salutation poses is a good exercise to remove stress and depression. Surya Namaskara consists of 12 poses done in sequence. It gives flexibility to the body and increases the flow of oxygen. It get the adrenaline flowing and relieves depression. It removes inertia from the body and burns calories. It is done slowly with coordinated breathing and creates a sense of well-being.
Shashangasana or the Hare pose is another asana that helps to relieve stress and depression.
Also asanas like Sarvangasana (the shoulder stand), Vipareet Karani Asana (the inverted pose), Paschimottanasana, Bhujangasana (the cobra pose), Shalabhasana (the locust pose), Garbhasana (the foetus pose) and Halasana (the plough pose) helps to relieve depression.
All relaxation postures like Shavasana (the corpse pose), Matsyakridasana (the playful fish pose), Advasana (the reverse corpse pose), Jyestikasana (the superior pose) and Makarasana (the crocodile pose) are good for depression.
3. Pranayama can help relieve depression
All pranayama techniques help to removes pranic blocks and improves the circulation of pranic energy in the body.
Anulom Vilom Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing is the easiest exercise for cleaning the energy channels. Those suffering from depression should avoid holding of breath during this pranayama. This pranayama cleans the nadis (pranic channels) and ensures free flow of energy to all organs of the body.
Bhramari Pranayama or the Humming bee breathing cools the mind and is good for the heart and anxiety.
Thus yogic management of depression is based on the understanding and awareness of our own inner reality along with practice of specific asana and breathing techniques to aid in the process of bringing out our inner joy.