10 Yoga Poses to Relieve Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Updated on July 31, 2018
JenniferWilber profile image

Jennifer Wilber is a teacher and writer. She is also a fitness enthusiast who enjoys yoga, and has an interest in health and wellness.

10 Yoga Poses to Relieve Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety
10 Yoga Poses to Relieve Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Yoga: A Natural Way to Relieve Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Yoga has been shown to have numerous health benefits for both seasoned yogis and beginners, including benefits for mental health. One major benefit of practicing yoga is that it can be useful in relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety. Certain yoga poses have been found to be particularly effective at helping to reduce stress and to relieve depression and anxiety symptoms.

A regular yoga practice can help to relieve symptoms associated with major depression episodes, persistent depressive disorder, various anxiety disorders, and even changes in mood associated with menstrual periods. Yoga can also help you to deal with the stresses of everyday life.

Child's pose can help to relieve stress and anxiety.
Child's pose can help to relieve stress and anxiety. | Source

Child’s Pose

Why it Helps: Child’s pose in an easy pose that helps to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. This pose helps to calm the nerves and promotes relaxation. This pose calms and quiets the mind to ease stress.

How to Do It: To do this pose, begin by kneeling on your mat with your knees separated about hip-width apart, or wherever distance is comfortable for you. From this kneeling position, gently lean forward and stretch your arms out in front of you, reaching toward the front of your mat. Feel the stretch throughout your back and spine and rest your head on the mat if you can reach. You may want to use a cushion if you can’t reach your forehead all the way down to the mat. To get the maximum benefit from this relaxing pose, hold it for at least five breaths, and up to five minutes.

Upward facing dog is another yoga pose that helps with depression and anxiety symptoms.
Upward facing dog is another yoga pose that helps with depression and anxiety symptoms. | Source

Upward Facing Dog Pose

Why it Helps: Upward facing dog pose is one of the most effective yoga poses for reducing symptoms of anxiety, as well as for general stress relief, because it helps to improve circulation throughout the body. The back is one of the most common places where people hold their stress, and this pose relieves aches and pains in the back by stretching and relaxing the back muscles.

How to Do It: To do this pose, start by laying face down with your body on the mat. Keep your legs a couple inches apart. Place your palms on the ground on either side of your chest. Next, straighten your arms as you lift your upper body up off the floor. Press the top of your feet into the ground as you lift, lifting your head straight and facing upwards. Raise your chest and keep your shoulders apart.

Downward facing dog calms the mind and relieves stress.
Downward facing dog calms the mind and relieves stress. | Source

Downward Facing Dog Pose

Why it Helps: Downward facing dog pose can help to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression by calming the mind, alleviating stress, and reducing feelings of anxiety. This pose stretches and strengthens the entire body, which helps you to better focus your mind. It reduces fatigue and improves blood flow to the brain, which leaves you feeling rejuvenated.

How to Do It: Start from a standing position, standing at the back of your mat. Gently kneel onto your mat. Support your body with your hands, knees, and the tops of your feet as you kneel down. Bend your feet, pressing the bottoms of your toes against the mat, and then push backward with your thighs to straighten your knees. Drop your head and elongate your neck, then press into the knuckles of your forefingers and thumbs to reduce the strain on your wrists. Your body should now form a triangle shape with your arms, legs, and the mat as its sides. You should hold this pose for several breaths.

Bridge pose is a calming yoga pose to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.
Bridge pose is a calming yoga pose to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. | Source

Bridge Pose

Why it Helps: Bridge pose is another excellent yoga pose for depression and anxiety relief. This pose helps to calm you as you stretch your legs and back. It is effective at reducing anxiety, as well as fatigue, insomnia and stress. It may also help to relieve back pain, headaches, and hypertension, which may also help to improve your overall mood.

How to Do It: Start by laying on your back and bending your knees with your feet placed on the mat about hip-width apart. Slide your arms down along the body, lightly touching the heels of your feet with the tips of your fingers. Press your feet into the floor, inhale, and lift your hips, rolling your spine off the floor. Press into your arms and shoulders to lift your chest while your legs and buttocks engage to lift your hips up higher. Hold for 4-8 breaths, then gently release to the floor.

Standing forward fold pose is thought to relieve stress, fatigue, and mild depression.
Standing forward fold pose is thought to relieve stress, fatigue, and mild depression. | Source

Standing Forward Fold Pose

Why it Helps: This pose stretches the hamstrings, thighs, and hips, and is also thought to relieve stress, fatigue, and mild depression. It lessens tension in the back to relieve stress held here in the body. Standing forward fold pose also calms the nervous system to reduce symptoms of anxiety.

How to Do It: Standing forward fold pose is pretty simple, even for beginners. Start by standing with your feet hips-width apart from each other. Gently bend forward at the waist until your lower ribs rest on your thighs. Next, bend your arms and hold your elbows with the opposite hands. You may also choose to rest your arms on the floor in front of or behind your feet. Inhale deeply as your arms hang loosely or rest on the floor. Allow your body to relax as you inhale and exhale for several breaths.

Cat-cow pose helps to relieve anxiety and depression.
Cat-cow pose helps to relieve anxiety and depression. | Source

Cat-Cow Pose

Why it Helps: Alternating between cat pose and cow pose can help to relieve depression and anxiety symptoms. Put together, these poses relieve stress, calm the mind, and creates a sense of emotional balance. These poses help to relieve tension in the back, which greatly helps to reduce feelings of stress.

How to Do It: Begin on your hands and knees, drawing your stomach to your spine. As you do this, round your back upwards. Release the crown of your head toward the floor. This is the “cat” part of the pose. Hold this part of the pose for one full breath, then begin to transition to “cow.” Inhale as your stomach drops toward the mat. Lift your chin as you gaze up toward the ceiling. Repeat cat and cow for several breaths each.

Shoulder stand pose helps to relieve stress and symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Shoulder stand pose helps to relieve stress and symptoms of anxiety disorders. | Source

Shoulder Stand Pose

Why it Helps: This pose helps to relieve stress and symptoms of anxiety disorders. It balances and nourishes the nervous system and helps to improve blood flow throughout your body.

How to Do It: Lie on your yoga mat, being sure to support your neck and shoulders with your outstretched arms. Exhale, bend your knees, and lift your legs to your chest. Use your hands to support your back. Raise your hips and thighs into the air and straighten out your legs. You may wish to use one leg to support the other leg. Hold this pose for several breaths to several minutes.

Warning

Do not attempt this pose if you have neck or shoulder problems, or if you have hypertension. Women should also avoid this yoga pose while menstruating.

Plow pose relieves stress that his held in your lower back.
Plow pose relieves stress that his held in your lower back. | Source

Plow Pose

Why it Helps: Plow pose helps to improve your posture while relieving stress and tension held in your lower back. It may also help to relieve headaches and insomnia.

How to Do It: Begin by laying on your back and lifting your legs 90 degrees off the floor while supporting your hips with your hands. Lift your hips toward your chest and slowly bring your legs down over your head, touching your toes to the floor, if you can. Straighten your thighs so they don’t touch your head. Straighten your arms and place your palms on the ground.

Extended triangle pose may help to relieve symptoms of mild anxiety.
Extended triangle pose may help to relieve symptoms of mild anxiety. | Source

Extended Triangle Pose

Why it Helps: Extended triangle pose is an excellent full-body stretch that helps to greatly reduce stress. It may also help to relieve symptoms of mild anxiety disorders. In addition to mental health benefits, this pose is also helpful in improving digestion.

How to Do It: Start from a standing position, then spread your legs about four feet apart as you exhale. Stretch your arms sideways with your palms facing downward. Turn your right foot 90 degrees, and your left foot right as you turn your right thigh outward. Bend your body from your hips toward your right leg, then twist left, keeping both sides long. Push your left hip forward slightly and lengthen your tailbone. Put your right hand on your ankle, shin, or on the floor and stretch your left hand toward the sky. Hold this pose for several breaths.

Corpse Pose

Why it Helps: Corpse pose helps the body to completely relax. As you breathe deeply in corpse pose, your nervous system quiets, your blood pressure lowers, and your body becomes completely relaxed. This pose is excellent for quieting the mind, relieving stress, and easing symptoms of anxiety.

How to Do It: Lay flat on your back on your mat. Your legs should be together, but not touching, and your arms should be resting beside your body with your palms facing up. Keep your eyes closed and breathe deeply as your become relaxed. Focus on each part of your body, beginning at your head and ending at your toes. Hold this position for 5-10 minutes.

Yoga is a calming workout that may relieve anxiety and depression.
Yoga is a calming workout that may relieve anxiety and depression. | Source

Naturally Relieve Anxiety and Depression with Yoga

Yoga is an excellent natural way to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Though yoga can’t completely cure mental health disorders, it can bring some relief. In combination with your regular treatment, yoga can help you to become free from depression and anxiety disorders. Yoga can also help to reduce feelings of stress, even in those who do not suffer from mental health problems.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jennifer Wilber

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      • JenniferWilber profile imageAUTHOR

        Jennifer Wilber 

        7 months ago from Cleveland, Ohio

        Thanks Dina! I started doing yoga and meditation again, in part, to try to help with with my mental health.

      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        7 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

        Hi, Dina, I like doing yoga postures for good health and well being. Do not ever neglected your yoga postures again. Thank you.

      • thedinasoaur profile image

        Dina Abdel Hady 

        7 months ago from California

        Jennifer, this is so good! I was just reading another hub on the effects of yoga on health. I once was a yogi but completely abandoned it as my mental illness flourished. These poses give me something to start working on, so thank you for this article. I checked out your articles and a lot of them resonate with me, so you got yourself a follower! Keep up the great work.

      • tinaamanda profile image

        Tina Amanda Putri 

        7 months ago from jakarta

        Nice article jenifer , i'm glad to visit your article now i can easily do yoga on my home

      • JenniferWilber profile imageAUTHOR

        Jennifer Wilber 

        7 months ago from Cleveland, Ohio

        Natalie, I'm glad you found my article helpful!

      • Natalie Frank profile image

        Natalie Frank 

        7 months ago from Chicago, IL

        This is the first article I have seen with pictures and poses I could actually do. So many just describe poses in ways I can't follow (and I was a professional dancer so I'm not totally ignorant as to positions etc.) or use poses with pictures that are too complex for me as I have never tried yoga and so don't have even a beginning working knowledge of it. I do a couple of these though not quite the same way - for example I do the Happy Child but with my knees together after push ups. I'll do it differently next time to see how it feels. I'm off to my living room to give all of them a try! Thanks for knowledge!

      • dredcuan profile image

        Dred Cuan 

        7 months ago from California

        As I'm checking the list, looks like it needs time to have that flexible body to do all these yoga poses. Overall, I like the idea of how yoga exercises can help a person to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Thanks for sharing!

      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        7 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

        Hello Jennifer, thank you for the story. I am an exercise enthusisat, and I used to do certain yoga poses as a way of relaxing. After an exercise,I apply the corpse posture to cool dowm completely. I foundyour article useful,and I will make a quote in it formy stories. Thank you.

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