Yoga Not Just Therapy for Depression

Updated: 
December 06, 2017

There are numerous stories of people finding help for emotional pain or even depression by turning to yoga. Celebrities like Mariel Hemmingway and Marianne Faithful have gone public about how using yoga as therapy helped them through dark and difficult periods in their lives, and many well-known yoga teachers, like Patricia Walden and Amy Weintraub came to yoga looking for a way to combat depression.

According to the April 2009 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, there is now more and more scientific evidence that these are not isolated instances. Indeed, using yoga as therapy for depression may be an effective means to not only offer help for depression, but to improve overall spiritual and mental health.

The Harvard Mental Health Letter notes that the scientific studies of yoga as therapy for depression demonstrate that mental and physical health are not just closely aligned, but are essentially equivalent. The Health Letter cites growing evidence that yoga as therapy for depression is "a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health."

In addition to offering help fighting depression, many practitioners report that yoga enlivens that fundamental, inner-most level of one's being: a quiet, ever-present yet often obscured level of joy.  People who have truly overcome depression using yoga as therapy report reaching a state of awareness within themselves in which they find an invincible foundation of peace and joy. When they discover this place within, they find they are no longer slaves to suffering or the whirlwinds of day-to-day emotion. From this clear level of self-sufficient happiness, depression can take no hold.

Yoga develops this awareness by relieving physiological blocks and promoting the unobstructed flow of the life force, or prana, through the body. When the body's energy is unclogged, the mind too becomes de-fogged. Most people have experienced the connection between mind and body in some form: for example, when trying to do a complicated mental task when fighting the flu or to focus when suffering from an injury, it's clear how the state of our body affects our mind.

When addressing how to deal with depression, some approaches focus on the mind, while others approach healing on the level of the body. Yoga therapy offers help with depression by integrating both. Of course, it can help to incorporate other means of depression self-help, such as a high Omega-3 diet and mood-lifting herbal supplements like St John's Wort.