Are harmful drugs necessary to treat depression? Increasingly, studies are proving the efficacy of yoga for depression and anxiety relief. One of the leading proponents of the use of yoga to restore balance to mind and body is Amy Weintraub, founder of LifeForce Yoga and author of Yoga for Depression. Ms. Weintraub was recently interviewed by Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D., for the Huffington Post. I’ve excerpted some salient points, and brought you her recommended yoga breathing practice for depression and anxiety on a short, fun video: Breath of Joy.
Yoga for Depression and Anxiety Relief from Amy Weintraub
ENS: Do you feel there is a growing acknowledgment in the field of psychotherapy of the importance of the body in releasing trauma and balancing mind and emotions?
AW: In my experience, yes. In the book, I quote Bessel Van der Kolk, director of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Mass., who has said that he will not work with a trauma survivor who is not practicing yoga. “If you really want to help a traumatized person,” he notes, “you have work with core physiological states, and then the mind will start changing.”
ENS:In LifeForce Yoga, you particularly emphasize yoga techniques like Pranayama breathing techniques, chanting, and Kriyas (targeted movements with specific actions). Breath and Kriyas are often used to move energy blocks in the body. Do you think that stagnant or blocked energy is a factor in depression?
AW: Most likely. If you’ve noticed people who are depressed or if you’ve been depressed in the past, the posture is usually slumped and the belly is kind of dormant. There’s not much happening in the core of the body. So yoga practices targeting depression can help release blocks in those areas.
People who struggle with depression can use sound, or chanting, to energize and release blocks in the core of the body, which tends to get dormant and sluggish in people with depression. Also, Kapalabhati breath, which involves a vigorous pumping of the belly, is very useful for enlivening this area. What happens is that we’re actually stimulating those areas and releasing blocks of stagnant energy.
Another wonderful practice, just to get your energy moving and get you motivated to practice is Breath of Joy. Breath of joy is a kriya, a targeted movement practice, which is particularly effective in managing mood. It counters the shallow breathing that is so common in people who struggle with depression.
So basically any yoga, whether they’re Yoga Asanas, Pranayama, Kriya, or sounds like Mantras or chanting, have an effect with sustained practice over time. The key is to release whatever is compressed or constricted from those areas of the body. And this can be any kind of blocks – lymphatic, muscular, energetic, or emotional.
Yoga for Depression and Anxiety Relief: Breath of Joy [video]
Enjoy this short video when down or listless to re-energize and invigorate. Get up and move – experience the Breath of Joy!
For more info from Amy Weintraub, check out her latest book Yoga Skills for Therapists: Effective Practices for Mood Management or her original volume Yoga for Depression: A Compassionate Guide to Relieve Suffering Through Yoga on Amazon.com.
For more holistic tips on healing depression naturally, consider the nutrition tips outlined on Is Low Carb the Anti Depression Diet? I hope to hear of your success with nutrition and yoga for depression and anxiety relief.