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June 20, 2018

9 Yoga Poses to Alleviate Depression

When you're feeling down, try these yoga poses to boost your mood.

You do not need a yoga mat or amazing flexibility - just yourself and the willingness to try something new.  The standing poses are the easiest to use when you're not at home - use them at your office or wherever you need them.

*Please note these poses will not eradicate depression, but are part of a healthy plan to alleviate depressive symptoms.  Read more about creating a comprehensive plan to address depression here.  Also note if you have any history of abuse, choose poses that allow you to stay present in your body and do not trigger you.

Legs up the wall

Sit as closely as you can to the wall, lean back on the floor, and allow your legs to rest on the wall. If you have a regular yoga practice and would like to do a supported shoulder stand, headstand, or headstand, these are also helpful.

Forward bends

Seated forward bend. Allow your head and arms to hang heavy over your legs.
Standing forward bend. From standing lean forward and allow your head to hang heavy. You can let your arms hang or hold your elbows as in the demonstration.

Downward dog

From standing forward bend, place your hands on the mat and walk them forward until you are in an inverted V shape. Push with your hands and shift your weight towards your heels as if you are trying to get your chest as close to your legs as possible.

Wide-leg forward bend

Can be done seated (as shown above) or standing. Place your feet a comfortable distance apart and lean forward, allowing your arms and head to hang heavy.

Child's pose

Sit with knees spread apart and toes touching, then lean forward over your legs with your hands and forehead on the mat.

Bridge pose

Resting bridge pose. Place your feet on the mat and knees in the air. Place a blanket or yoga block under your sacrum. Be cautious with bridge pose if you have any lower back problems.

Working bridge pose. Place your feet on the mat with knees in the air. Your feet can be arms length or further away. Gently push into your heels and raise your lower back off the mat. Clasp your hands together underneath you if you desire.

Spinal twist

Lie on your back with your feet on the mat and your knees in the air. Allow your legs to float to the left to where they are comfortable. You can place your left hand on your knees or out beside you, and your right arm on the floor in a T shape.
Now allow your legs to float to the right. Allow your left arm to rest on the ground. You can place your right hand on your leg or the ground.

Fetal position

Lie on your side on the mat, resting your head on your arm, and allowing your knees to bend and rest on the ground.

Resting pose (savasana)

Lay on your back and let your body rest completely. If you have any discomfort in your lower back, place a blanket or pillow under your knees.

Special thanks to Melissa Garner, LMHC, QS, RYT, licensed mental health counselor and yoga instructor, who partnered with me to create this page.  She offers yoga classes in the Pensacola area that incorporate mental health.  You can find her here.  I also interviewed Melissa about the benefits of yoga for mental health and am excited to share that interview soon.  Stay tuned!