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We all know that exercise is important for depression. Anyone who has been told to get more exercise by their doctor can attest to that. They aren’t wrong. Exercise is great when it comes to relieving depression. However, it’s often easier said than done. Exercise is one of the last things I want to do when I’m depressed.
Though I struggle to exercise during my depressive episodes, I have found Yoga to be helpful. Our moods can benefit from any exercise but Yoga, because it can be gentle and calming, has the added benefit of self-focus. It can have a meditative quality to it.
Studies show that Yoga increases neurotransmitters in the brain, and that gives it the potential of playing a protective or even preventive role in maintaining mental health. One study revealed that Yoga can even calm the anger problems of school-age children.
Despite the fact that it is fairly mainstream, Yoga remains a bit of a mystery to many of us. At best, we have these visions of the super-fit and pretentious all stretching out together in some sweaty room somewhere. At least that’s how I looked at it.
Yoga never seemed to be the right thing for me. But, as I began to stretch more and more to support my running, Yoga started to come up. Then, me being the reluctant hippie that I am, Yoga popped up again. Ultimately I had to give it a try.
I was surprised how effective Yoga was when it came to my depression and anxiety. I started out hoping to help along my post-run recovery. I was surprised when I found that Yoga does as much for my depression as it does for my running.
With that realization, I decided to make Yoga a bigger part of my life. But it wasn’t that easy.
I looked into going to yoga classes. The problem is that I have too much to overcome. First, there’s the financial aspect. Yoga classes in my area are easily close to or exceeding $100 a month. That’s steep when you’re starting out and not sure it’s for you. But that’s not even the big problem.
On a good day, I’m not a fan of crowds and classrooms. On a bad day, I can’t even leave the house. So how am I going to accomplish a consistent Yoga practice? Even more, those classes can be sixty to ninety minutes. I don’t have that kind of attention span when I’m starting out. I’d have to crawl out of the studio, so nobody noticed me leaving early.
Furthermore, I would be embarrassed to try Yoga in front of people. Fumbling through each pose, forgetting to breath in or, God forbid, the occasional Yoga fart. C’mon now. No thanks. I’m not paying $100 for that experience.
So what can be done? How do we get the benefits of Yoga without all the stuff that comes with it?
What if I told you that you could do the bare minimum, save $100+ a month and never feel self-conscious about your crappy flexibility? Oh and there’s the added benefit of it helping relieve your depression too.
Enter the YouTube Yoga Studio. YouTube is perfect for beginning a Yoga practice.
1. It’s free.
2. You can do it at home or wherever you choose to access YouTube.
3. You can do it alone. No awkward yogic shenanigans.
4. You can stop, free from judgment, whenever you get bored. (My favorite)
Yoga on YouTube is fantastic, but it can be a little hit or miss. There are a lot of choices. From the desperate and creepy to the high end and infomercial-worthy, Yoga on YouTube covers the spectrum. So be ready to pre-watch some videos before you find the one for you.
Step 1: Pick the days you are going to do Yoga (I started at 2-3 days a week)
Step 2: Pick your first video
Step 3: At your chosen time and day do the video for as long as you can
Step 4: Write down when you stopped.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 trying to increase your time a little bit each session until you complete the video.
It’s that simple. You don’t need some 90-minute Hot Yoga class to get the benefits you want for your mental health. Yes, the longer, the better. But all too often we have this all or nothing mentality. “If I can’t do it perfectly then why try?” We’re shooting ourselves in the foot when we do that.
Five to ten minutes at a time made a huge difference in my body awareness, my running, my recovery, and more than anything my depression. So no more of this all or nothing stuff. You’re robbing yourself of the opportunity. Now, on to the resources.
I was a bit overwhelmed when I first started looking up Yoga videos. That’s why I’ve narrowed it down to a few resources to get you started. Once you get comfortable, you can search around for more videos that suit your style and goals.
You can search “Yoga for Depression” and find a good chunk of videos on the subject. However, you don’t just have to limit yourself to the poses that are tagged “depression.” Any yoga routine is going to give you some awesome mental health benefits. That’s why I suggest we start with Yoga for Beginners.
This video is perfect for first-timers. I’ve tried a lot of sequences for beginners, and they still seem too complicated for those who are pretty uninformed about Yoga.
When I get out of the habit and need to re-start my Yoga practice, this is the first video I bring up. It’s very simple, and each pose lasts only a brief moment, and that is great if you get bored easily.
I also like the instructor’s style. She gets you in the calm Yoga mood without being distracting. Because this is a beginner sequence, you don’t need any equipment. I had a yoga mat when I started, but you could easily grab a towel or use nothing at all.
Once you get through that video and start to get a little bored with it, you may want to try some other sequences online. The same simple process applies. Just pick the video, do as much as you can, do more the next time. No rules other than that. Keep it simple.
Another video from the same instructor is this sequence for lower back pain. I have back pain, so I get a lot of relief from this one, but I also benefit from the meditative breathing and rocking back and forth. Again, it doesn’t matter the specific Yoga sequence. Your mental health can benefit from it.
Let’s look at a few other videos specifically for depression.
This video is a nice short one for if you don’t have a lot of time or of you get bored quickly. I like how simple the poses are and how she speeds through the sequence.
Yoga Tip: If a video instructor goes too fast or too slow for you, once you learn the sequence, you can go at the speed you like.
This video is a longer one than the others. It may take some time to work through, but the poses are gentle and aren’t too difficult for beginners. I’m not sure about the all the finger tapping at the end of this one. I usually bail before that stuff starts.
In addition to videos on YouTube, there are plenty of apps and websites you can find that can help you find a routine that works for you. Here are two that I use frequently.
I also like the Yoga Studio app on my iPhone. You can create your own sequences and learn a variety of poses. The videos are in HD and are super illustrative. I’ve tried a lot of new poses using this app. It’s worth the small price.
I’m a fan of Daily Burn, and their Yoga is pretty spot on. If you have a Daily Burn membership, then take advantage of their Yoga videos to expand your options.
Whether you go to an actual studio, or you become a YouTube Yogi like me, the benefits are undeniable. Give yoga a try. If you’ve only got 5-10 minutes, that’s enough time to make a positive impact on your mental health.
Yoga isn’t just for sweaty hippies and housewives with a Lululemon fetish. Yoga can be for people who are trying to stomp out the depression in their lives. Yoga can be yet another tool in your arsenal. Combine it with eating healthy, getting professional help, and taking the medications you’re supposed to take. Adding just a little bit of Yoga to your mental health regimen can make a big difference in your life.
Those of us with debilitating depression know that we need every little difference maker we can get our hands on. So don’t delay, get to stretching.