Many of our patients with chronic mood disorders report that beginning yoga and doing it consistently has been associated with periods of remarkable stability. There are studies supporting yoga as an evidence based approach to the treatment of depression. But it is hard to figure out where to begin. At the end of this page are some additional resources.
One thing to realize is that for yoga to work requires a fair amount of consistency. Twice a week is probably a minimum dose and 3 to 4 times a week seems to be much better.
Yoga is one of the great meditative traditions. The word Yoga means union, and comes from “yuj” which means “to join,” to bring together into union the various aspects of yourself that were never divided in the first place. From that comes the direct experience of yourself that is beyond the false identities stemming from the seemingly countless colorings of attraction and aversion. Another modern adaptation of this principle is the word holistic, meaning to become whole, or to realize your underlying wholeness. Patanjali describes this in the Yoga Sutras where he defines Yoga as the mastery (nirodha) of the mind (sutra 1.2), allowing the true Self to then come shining through (sutra 1.3). Patanjali also explains that the purpose of Yoga is discrimination (viveka) among the inner processes (sutras 2.26-2.29).
In the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali there are many similar references to an active process of reaching clarity. This is from Sadhana Pada (On Practice) – Sutras 23 – 26.
23. Union (samyoga) is the cause of apprehending as [one] self-form the two powers of owner and owned.
sva-svami-saktyoh sva-rupa-upalabdhi-hetuh samyogah
24. The cause of it is ignorance.
tasya hetur avidya
25. From its absence, samyoga ceases; [this is] the escape, the isolation from the seen. tad-abhavat samyoga-abhavo hanam tad-drseh kaivalyam
26. The means of escape is unfaltering discriminative discernment.
viveka-khyatir aviplava hanopayah
This is from a wonderful site about yoga philosophy: http://www.santosha.com/philosophy/index.html .
Those who practice yoga follow one, or more, of the many paths to greater peace, and greater “enlightenment” that derive from the book Yoga Sutra written 2000 years ago by the Indian wise man Patanjali.
Most Westerners who practice yoga practice a form of yoga that is based on performing a series of “asanas” or postures. There are nine branches in total: yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption).
Elsewhere on the Self Help page we refer to breathing exercises (pranayama), meditation (dhyani) and mindfulness (samadhi). The point is that this vast tradition encompasses almost all of the ways that people throughout the ages have found to achieve peace.
We can recommend based on patient successes two approaches that are quite different: one is Bikram Yoga (which is an intense, very physical and demanding form of yoga done in a heated room, it involves doing the same routines every day) and the other is one on one yoga training with someone who adapts yoga to your body and needs. We really like Karen Kibler for this.
Another good place to start exploring this tradition is the “Yoga Basics” page from the Yoga Journal website. Other resources are available online that may be useful.