Yoga is a relaxing form of exercise that can help alleviate depression. Meditation and yoga poses can help you attack the root cause of depression - the feeling that you can't handle the demands of your life. It tones the nervous system, stimulates circulation, promotes concentration, and energizes your mind and body.

The first thing a depressed person stops doing is moving. Regular exercise becomes intolerable. But Yoga exercise, starting with as few as three poses a day in just a few minutes’ time, coupled with correct breath patterns, can become so pleasant to you that soon you will want to do more and more. The heavy, unmoving feeling of depression will be on the run! Yoga exercises put pressure on glands and organs, helping them to produce the soothing, healing chemical balance that is needed to feel well and be well. Yoga exercises improve circulation, sending invigorating oxygen to your brain and all your muscles. The stretching and strengthening movements flush toxins from the body as well.

Yoga is a spiritual practice with the goal of awakening to one's true nature or cosmic consciousness, gradually attaining higher and more expanded states of absorption and at the most advanced stages - "samadhi." Even many of the most well known "authorities" and authors use Yogic terminology incorrectly, and confuse the stream with the ocean, so to speak.

Breathing is critical to yoga. How you breathe is much more important than your ability to touch your toes to your ear. Each inhalation should expand both the belly and the chest—not only does this maximize the oxygen you receive, but it also helps you relax into each posture. Breathe out naturally, not forcefully. You may have a tendency to hold your breath while moving from one position to another; try to become aware of this, and make sure to keep your breathing consistent.

Tense the muscles in your neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, waists, hands, fingers, chest as well as muscles in your trunk and legs. Hold the tension, then relax and exhale.

Starting with your scalp, face, and head, tense all of your body muscles. Hold the tension, then relax and exhale. Feel how all of the tension has melted away from your body.

Meditation can be a powerful tool over the long-term to facilitate greater levels of happiness. Dr. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin has done research that shows that meditation tends to increase the activity of the left prefrontal cortex of the brain. Left-sided activation has been associated with greater levels of calm and happiness and well as more emotional resiliency, rendering practitioners better able to withstand the inevitable ups and downs of life. Students who are severely depressed may not be able to meditate, even if they keep their eyes open. If that’s the case, try to initiate meditative practices when they are out of the depths of depression to help insulate them against recurrences.

The physical practices of yoga nourish the brain and balance the nervous system, says Weintraub. The kind of deep, diaphragmatic breathing done in yoga reverses the shallow breathing patterns associated with depression and anxiety. Studies also show that yoga practice lowers cortisol, the “stress hormone”, and raises “feel good” hormones like endorphins.

Regular practice of Yoga will protect you from depression and help you stay bright-minded, while recognizing the signals that depression is giving you. To begin with, choose three exercises that appeal to you, and do them every day. Then, as you get more comfortable, expand your routine to give yourself more of a challenge and increase the beneficial effects.

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