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Yoga for Depression



About the author

Article written for Hypnosis Review Quarterly by Sanjay Rampal ji. Sanjay is a senior-yoga master that has been teaching and practicing yoga in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh India for over twenty years.


Depression

Asanas

  • Janu Sirsasana
  • Matsyasana
  • Balasana
  • Surya Namaskara

Janu Sirsasana

Janu means the knee. Sirsa is the head.

Steps:

  1. Sit on the floor, with legs stretched straight in the front.
  2. Bend the left knee and place the left heel against the inner side of the left thigh near the perineum. Try and push the left knee as far back as possible.
  3. Bend forward and stretch the arms towards the right foot and hold it. First catch the toes of the right foot, then gradually catch the sole and finally catch the wrist of one hand with the other, beyond the outstretched foot.
  4. Keep the right leg stretched throughout by tightening the knee
  5. Exhale, move the trunk forward by bending the elbows, and rest the chin beyond the right knee.
  6. Stay in this position with deep breathing from half a minute to a minute.
  7. Inhale, raise the head and trunk, straighten the arm and gaze up for a few seconds, extending the spine and try to make it concave.
  8. Release the hand grip on the right foot, straighten the left leg.
  9. Repeat the same on the other side.

Benefits:

The strong stretch helps in stimulating and activating the mind. The stretch of the spine and the chest opens up the inner dormant confidence that combats depression. This asana also tones the liver and the spleen and there by aids digestion. Persons suffering from enlargement of the prostate gland will benefit by staying longer in this pose.

Precautions:

  • Asthma
  • Diarrhea
  • Knee injury: Don’t flex the injured knee completely and support it on a folded blanket.

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Matsyasana

Matsya means fish. Unlike other asanas which are named after the resemblance of the body to a particular creature during the final position of the asana, the body does not resemble a fish during this asana. The asana is suggestive of the quality of floating like a fish – a state that’s induced by assuming this posture. One would be able to float on water while in this asana. The term matsyasana conveys that while in water, one would be as comfortable as a fish if  he / she is in this asana.

Steps:

  • Sit in Padmasana and slowly use the help of your elbows to lie down on your back. Then slowly lie on your back completely.
  • Now with the help of elbows or palms bend your head backward and place middle of the head on the ground.
  • Catch hold of the toes with your index fingers and place the elbows on the ground.
  • While returning to original position, release the toes and using the help of your hands straighten your head.
  • Now with the help of the elbows sit in Padmasana

Benefits:

  • Stretches the deep hip flexors (poses) and the muscles (intercostals) between the ribs.
  • Stretches and stimulates the muscles of the belly and front of the neck.
  • Stretches and stimulates the organs of the belly and throat.
  • Strengthens the muscles of the upper back and back of the neck.
  • Improves posture.
  • Jalandhara Bandha in Sarvangasana pressurizes the thyroids and pituitary glands but in Matsya Bandha these glands are stretched. These opposite processes help improve the circulation in these glands assuring healthy functioning.
  • Also the thigh & abdomen muscles are stretched systematically.

Precautions:

  • Do not bend your neck backward with a jerk.
  • The weight over the head should be taken off slowly.
  • The support of the hands should be removed only when the head is completely ready to bear the weight.
  • While releasing the position, one should avoid jerks and speedy movements.
  • Maintain the asana until it is bearable and pleasant. Do not over strain yourself.
  • Do not move or pull or turn the neck while you are in the position.
  • Do not remove the support of the elbows to neck.

The asana is not recommended in the case of high or low Blood pressure, migraine, insomnia and serious lower-back or neck injury.

Beginners Tip: Beginners sometimes strain their neck in this pose. If you feel any discomfort in your neck or throat, either lower your chest slightly toward the floor, or put a thickly folded blanket under the back of your head.

Balasana

Balasana is one of the cultural asana that smoothly heals the body and mind. Bala in literal sense means child. Hence, this asana is also known as the child pose. Balasana is a relaxing pose that can be sequenced between more taxing asanas. It relieves the exhaustion of both mind and body, supporting deep breath like that of a child.
The free pose “Balasana” is regarded by some authorities as a variation, of the Siddhasana, while Gheranda and others confirm it as a meditative posture independent in its technique from others. Muktasana differs from Balasana by its peculiar arrangement of legs, arms and fingers.
In Balasana, the body faces the floor in a fetal position. The knees and hips are bent and the chest can rest either on the knees or the knees can be spread to about the width of a yoga mat, allowing the chest that should go between the knees. The head is stretched forward toward the ground and the forehead may touch the ground. The arms may be stretched forward in front of the head or backwards towards the feet. The pose can become active through breath. Many yoga instructors recommend using this pose as a substitute for `Downward Dog` posture during a sun salutation. It is usually practiced before and after Sirsasana or Headstand.

Steps:

  1. One should touch his/her big toes together and sit on the heels, then separate the knees about as wide as the hips.
  2. He / she should then exhale and lay the torso down between the thighs.
  3. Next, the person should broaden the sacrum across the back of the pelvis and narrow the hip points toward the navel, so that they nuzzle down onto the inner thighs.
  4. One should lengthen the tailbone away from the back of the pelvis while the person lifts the base of the skull away from the back of the neck.
  5. The person should lay the hands on the floor alongside the torso, palms up, and release the fronts of the shoulders toward the floor.
  6. Then he / she should feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across the back.

Beginners can also use Balasana to experience a deep forward bend, where the torso rests on the thighs. The person should stay in the pose from 1 to 3 minutes. To exit, the person should first lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis. If the practitioner has difficulty while sitting on the heels in this pose, it is recommended to place a thickly folded blanket between the back thighs and calves.

There are ample benefits of Balasana. The asana gently stretches and tones the hips, thighs, and ankle; also calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue. Balasana relieves back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported. To increase the length of the torso, it is best to stretch the arms forward. The person may lift the buttocks just slightly away from the heels to get better results. Balasana should be avoided, if the person is suffering from diarrhea and if the woman is pregnant. In case of knee injury, one has to take the supervision of an experienced teacher before practicing Balasana.

Benefits:

  • Gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue
  • Relieves back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported

Precautions:

  • Diarrhea
  • Pregnancy
  • Knee injury: Avoid Balasana unless you have the supervision of an experienced teacher.

Surya Namaskara

It is considered one of the best exercise for the human body. Surya Namaskar consists of  Yogasanas and Pranayama. The Pranayama and thus its advantages are skillfully incorporated in Surya Namaskar. The Mantras (Bija Mantras), which are chanted before practicing, are also very useful.

In all this Surya Namaskar is an appreciated exercise among people of all ages from kids to older people. Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is the best way to burn the calories and reduce weight. It is often recommended for obesity.

Steps: In all, Namaskar includes 10 different positions, they are:Position 1:

Inhale and maintain the position as shown in picture in the standing position with hands joined together near chest, feet together and toes touching each other.

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Position 2:

Exhale and bend forward at the waist till palms touch the ground in line with the toes. Don’t bend knees while performing. At first you may find it difficult to attain the ideal position but try to bend as much as possible without bending in the knees.

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Do’s

-While exhaling bend forward at the waist

-Palms touching the ground, fingers pointing forward, thumbs at 90 degree angle

-Legs straight

-Try to touch the forehead to the knees

-Relax the neck

Don’ts

-Do not bend the knees.

-Do not keep the neck tense.

Position 3:

Inhale and take the left leg back with left toes on the floor, press the waist downwards and raise the neck, stretch the chest forward and push shoulders backwards. Keep the right leg and both the hands in the same position. Keep the right leg folded.

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Do’s

-Take the left leg backwards and touch the knee to the floor, keeping the toes erect.

-The knee of the right leg will be bent

-The knee of the left leg should touch the ground

-Drop the waist / hips towards the floor

-Gaze is upwards, both arms are straight

Don’ts

-Do not bend the neck forward.

-Do not bend the elbows.

Position 4:

Hold the breath and raise the knee of left leg. Take the right leg backwards and keep it close to the left leg. Straighten both the legs and both hands. Keep the neck straight and site fixed. Keep both the toes erect. Take care that the neck, spine, thighs and the feet are in a straight line.

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Do’s

-Take the right leg back and place it beside the left leg, keeping the toes erect

-Keep the body in one straight line — plank position

-Keep the arms straight

-Gaze forward

Don’ts

-Do not bend the arms

-Do not look towards the floor

-Do not drop the hips / waist towards the floor

-Do not stick the buttocks into the air

-Do not bend the knees

Position 5:

Exhaling bend both the hands and elbows and touch forehead on the ground, touch the knees on the ground, keep both the elbows close to chest. The forehead, chest, both the palms, both the toes, knees should touch the ground and rest of the body not touching the floor. Since only eight parts rest on the ground, it is called ‘ Ashtanga’ position.

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Do’s

-Bring the body towards the floor, placing the 8 parts on the floor: Toes, knees, chest, palms, and forehead

-Keep the hands close to the body, next to the shoulders

-Keep the elbows pointed to the sky and close in to the body

Don’ts

-Do not touch the thighs, hips, waist or abdomen to the floor

-Do not touch the chin to the floor

-Do not let the elbows fall away from the body

Position 6:

Inhale and straighten the elbows, stretch the shoulders upwards, press the waist downwards but don’t bend the arms. Keep the knees and toes on the floor. Push the neck backwards and look upwards.

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Do’s

-Push the upper body upwards so that the arms are straight

-Keep the fingers pointed forwards, palms on the ground, thumbs at 90 degree angle

-Open the chest, pull the shoulders downwards

-Drop the head and neck backwards and gaze upwards towards the sky

-Keep the heels, legs and knees together

-Keep the toes erect

Don’ts

-Do not let the legs or heels come apart

-Do not bend the elbows

-Do not hunch the shoulders towards the ears

Position 7:

Hold the breath, bend the neck downwards and press the chin in the throat, push the body backwards and touch the heels on the ground, raise the waist upwards, do not move the palms on the floor.

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Do’s

-Push the body upward so the buttocks and waist are raised into the air, leaving the body in an Inverted ‘V’ position

-Take the head and chin towards the chest

-Try to touch the heels to the floor

Don’ts

-Do not bend the knees

-Do not bend the arms

Position 8:

Hold the breath as in position 7, bring the right leg in the front and place it in between the hands like in position 3 but instead of left leg in the front here take right leg and place left leg in the back with left knee and toes on the ground.

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Do’s

-Take the right leg forward and place it between the hands

-The knee of the right leg will be bent

-The knee of the left leg should touch the ground

-Drop the waist / hips towards the floor

-Gaze is upwards, both arms are straight

Don’ts

-Do not bend the neck forward.

-Do not bend the elbows.

Position 9:

Exhale and bring the left leg forwards as in the position 2 and place it in between both the arms.

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Do’s

-Take the left leg forward and place it beside the right

-Palms touching the ground, fingers pointing forward, thumbs at 90 degree angle

-Legs straight

-Try to touch the forehead to the knees, relax the neck

Don’ts

-Do not bend the knees.

-Do not keep the neck tense.

Position 10:

Inhaling start getting up and attain the position as in position 1.

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Pranayama

  • Bhastrika
  • Kapalbhati
  • Abdominal breathing

Bhastrika

Steps:

Sit in a comfortable Asana. Breathe in through both the nostrils forcefully, till the lungs are full and diaphragm is stretched. Then breathe out forcefully also, but see that the abdominal cavity does not blow up due to the air coming in. Depending upon the capacity and health of an individual, this Pranayama can be done in three variable speeds, slow speed, moderate speed and at high speed. Individuals with weak lungs and heart should do this at a slow speed while performing Recak and Puraka A healthy individual and one used to doing it, should do it initially at a slow speed and then gradually increase the speed to moderate and then high. This Pranayama should be done for 5 to 10 minutes.

Shiva Sankalpa (Vow) at the time of performing Bhastrika:
While inhaling in the process of doing Bhastrika make a vow and focus in your mind as if all the divine powers, purity, peace and joy, all that is good in the universe around you is entering inside your body and that you are getting filled with the divine powers. Pranayama done with this kind of vow in mind imparts a special benefit to the individual.

Special Notes:

  • Those suffering from high blood pressure or from any heart disease should not do this Pranayama.
  • While breathing in the abdominal area should not blow up. You have to fill the air in the chest area, i.e., up to diaphragm, so that the part of the chest with its ribs swells.
  • In summer season, reduce the number of repetitions of this Pranayama.
  • One must do this Pranayama for the duration of three to five minutes every day.

Incase both the nostrils do not open on account of ailments like severe cough or sinus , etc., for such persons they should first close the right nostril and do respiration (exhalation as well as inhalation) through the left nostril. Then the left nostril should be closed and respiration should be done by the right nostril. This method of alternate breathing should be continued at the desired speed, slow, moderate or fast, till both the nostrils open simultaneously. Then at the end Pranayama should be completed by doing Recak and Pruaka through both Ida and Pingala.
While doing this Pranayama keep both the eyes closed and mentally chant the mantra “OM” throughout the exercise of Pranayama.

Benefits:

Diseases like cold, cough, allergy, asthma, respiratory diseases of all kinds are cured. Lungs become strong and due to the heart and head getting adequate quantity of pure and fresh air, health is improved. Diseases of the throat like thyroid, tonsils and other ailments of throat are cured.

  • This Pranayama brings about a proper balance of the three Doshas i.e. Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, and maintains their balance. Blood is purified and the body gets rid of foreign objects and toxins.
  • Stabilizes Prana and calms mind and helps the upward journey of Prana from Muladhara Chakra (Base Chakra) to Sahsrar Chakra(Cerebral Gland) and helpful in the Kundalini Jagran.

Kapalbhati

When Kapalbhati is practiced?

The best time for pranayama is early morning with an empty stomach. Though it can also be practiced after at least ‘five hours’ of having food, as this gap is enough to digest the consumed food and the stomach gets relaxed. Some patients of chronic diseases are advised to practice pranayama twice a day, in the morning and evening.

After pranayama, food should NOT be taken at least for 20 minutes, so as to calm down the body. Though very little amount of water can be taken if needed any time.

Preparations before Kapalbhati

At the time of practicing yoga or pranayama cloths should be loose and comfortable with the body. Kapalbhati is practiced in any one of comfortable poses or asana like Padmasana, Siddhasana, Vajrasana or Sukhasana sitting on the floor on yoga mat. Spinal cord must be straight.

Practitioners unable to sit on the floor due to any disease can sit on the chair with straight spinal cord. Pranayama should never be practiced on the bare floor or in standing position.

How to do Kapalbhati?

It is very easy to practice for everyone. The primary thing is to breathe in normally and breathe out forcefully so as to influence the organs of the abdominal area

Steps:

Sit in a comfortable asana with normal breathing. Inhale normally and exhale forcefully. Also keep the body easy and relax, don’t feel stress. As a beginner, the force should be very low as per the body strength. Continue this practice till you can perform comfortably. Whenever you feel tired, take a break with normal breathing and then resume. Optimize your practice to make “one stroke per second”. The ideal frequency for the kapalbhati is once per second.

Abdominal area also makes inward and outward movements and considerable force is applied to the Manipura, Svadhisthana and Muladhara Chakra. That is very helpful for Kundalini Jagran. In the beginning the practitioner may feel a little pain in the abdomen and back because of new strain to the body, which disappears after some days.

Benefits:

  • Face becomes lustrous and attractive.
  • Diseases related to Kapha like asthma, respiratory troubles, allergies, sinus, etc. are cured
  • Diseases of heart, lungs and brain get cured.
  • Obesity, diabetes, flatulence, constipation, acidity and diseases pertaining to kidneys and prostate glands , etc., are cured.
  • If done regularly for five minutes daily, it relieves constipation, Blood sugar becomes normal and weight in the abdominal region reduces considerably. Blockages in the arteries are also cleared.
  • Peace and stability of mind are achieved. No negative thoughts occur. Troubles like depression are cured.
  • Chakras are purified and chakras from Muladhar-Chakra to Sahsrar Chakra are filled with pious Cosmic Energy.
  • Organs in the abdominal cavity, stomach, pancreas, liver, spleen, intestine, prostrate and kidney function more efficiently and develop immunity towards diseases. Benefits accrued by this cannot be obtained by several other asanas. It strengthens the intestines and improves digestion.

Important Health & Medical Disclaimer

The techniques, ideas, and suggestions in this report are not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Yoga exercises and other forms of exercise can be dangerous, especially if performed without proper pre-exercise evaluation, competent instruction and personal supervision from a qualified fitness professional.

Always consult your physician or health care professional before performing any new exercise, exercise technique or beginning any new diet — particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, elderly, or if you have any chronic or recurring conditions.

Any application of the techniques, ideas, and suggestions in this document is at the reader’s sole discretion and risk. The editors, authors and or publishers of this report make no warranty of any kind in regard to the contents of this report, including, but not limited to, any implied warranties of merchant ability or fitness for any particular purpose.

The editors, authors and or publishers of this report are not liable or responsible to any person or entity for any errors contained in this report, or for any special, incidental, or consequential damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the information contained within.




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