With the prevalence of mood disorders in the world now a days, Yoga techniques are called upon more often than ever to correct psychosomatic conditions like depression. Yoga theory provides an excellent interpretation of this condition, which can itself be a source of great comfort to the sufferer. The practical tools of the Hatha Yoga system, when properly employed can then bring permanent relief from such a condition, and most importantly, place a sense of self-empowerment back in the hands of the sufferer.
A Yogic Perspective on Depression.
Yoga psychology is founded on the theory of the three gunas. The gunas are the primal energies from which all mind and matter are composed, and represent qualities or modes of experience; Tamas, heaviness or inertia; Rajas, passion or mobility; and Sattva, peace and luminosity. Every individual experiences the alternating dominance of each guna and Hatha Yoga’s central aim is to increase the influence of sattva in one’s mental and emotional life. Psychosomatic conditions are, therefore, simply the excessive dominance of one of the undesirable gunas in the individual’s psychology.
Renowned Yoga Therapist Patricia Walden distinguishes two types of ‘depression’ in this respect – one dominated by tamas, and one dominated by rajas. A sufferer of the first kind would be expected to show tendencies to lethargy and hopelessness, whereas a sufferer of the second kind may show more agitation and emotionality. When treating sufferers of depression with Yoga Therapy, therefore, it is important to identify the extent to which they require energizing practices, or methods of calming the mind. The therapeutic destination in either case is the creation of a sattvic, balanced state of mind.
Yoga Therapy for Depression.
- Energizing practices
Begin with energizing and heating pranayama such as Kapalabhati for beginnersor Bhastrika Pranayama for more advanced practitioners. Then, prioritize methods of conducting more prana into the body by practicing a sustained deep Yogic breath throughout your practice. It is also important to begin your practice at a brisk rate, incorporating lots of sun salutations, perhaps developing multiple variations in order to keep the mind engaged. Attention should be paid to the higher chakras, most particularly the heart and third eye – in order to initiate a source of inspiration to take back into daily life. Save relaxation until the end of your practice, when sattvais already flowing so you will not get swept away by negative thoughts.
- Calming practices
In some cases, vigorous exercise may be useful as a method of burning off the energy of rajas. Whether or not this is the case, it is wise to regain control of your whole system by maintaining a deep and even breath throughout the whole practice. This can be cultivated by the preliminary practice of Alternate Nostril Breathing, and the use of Ujjayi Pranayama throughout the sequence as a method of harnessing the body-mind complex. Concentrate on methods of grounding from the root chakra in order to create a sense of stability. It may be wise to begin with plenty of standing poses to achieve a sense of grounding and gradually bringoneself down to floor poses when feeling calm. Balance poses are also very useful calming mechanisms when that initial sense of stability has been achieved.
Kairali Yoga offers expert Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda treatments for depression, anxiety and other emotional difficulties. To find out more about Yoga Therapy at The Ayurvedic Healing Village in Kerala, India, click here.