Depression and Anxiety: How Yoga Can Help

Depression and Anxiety: How Yoga Can Help

Depression and anxiety are cousins. Depression and anxiety are a package deal usually not sold separately — they just seem to function better together. Imagine having to fight in a war every single day since the day you learned how powerful your mind is. Imagine not being able to pick and choose your battles but having to fight every single battle day in and day out. Imagine this war is with yourself: you are fighting yourself with yourself for yourself. If you suffer from depression and/or anxiety, you know this war all too well. I too am frequently visited by the cousins but I refuse to allow these two demons to victimize me.   

These cousins visit different individuals at different times and for different reasons. Yoga has been my saving grace to allow me to deal with my depression and anxiety; both seem to show up when I experience situations that I have no control over or have lost control over. Yoga taught me that being in control is not always necessary or healthy. The feeling of being lost is the perfect time for lessons to be learned. I first discovered yoga in 2009. I had just graduated undergrad, my original post-graduation plans had flopped and I didn’t have another plan, which is no surprise because my depression and anxiety were at an all-time high during that year. I found myself living with my parents again, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. During that time, I was lost and confused. I found my very first yoga DVD on a bookshelf in a bookstore, I just wanted something different and not have the everyday feeling of not knowing what was coming next. At least with exercise, I could control the situation, in the sense that I could choose how often I wanted to press play. 


Yoga has a funny way of meeting us on our mats, right where we are in our lives. The funny thing about yoga is that its best students are the individuals who are struggling. Quickly, it occurred to me that one of the main focuses in yoga was…breathing, something that I seemed to be rushing through due to not having to control over my life at that time. Breathing is basic; we all just forget to actually do it at times. 

Breathing through depression and anxiety is possible as well as necessary. Yoga is no different: without breathing, yoga would not exist. Breathing in yoga allows you to focus on the present moment and not in your current situation. Depression and anxiety tend to allow your mind to race and jump ahead while running a million miles a minute. 

One year after moving back in with my parents, I moved out and decided that graduate school was the best option for me. Yoga was determined to accompany me because it was just getting started with me. Once I moved, I began to explore my new area and to my surprise, there was a yoga studio within walking distance from my apartment. I hesitated to go at first because my depression and anxiety were constantly in my ear about not being good enough to go to an actual yoga class and how out of place I would feel. I finally went to one class and I wasn’t in love at first but it slowly grew on me. Each class I attended, I slowly let go of tiny pieces of control and began to peel back layers of myself. It was pretty scary! I was in my own hell and yoga was with me in those darkest of days. 

Yoga is just one option to keep the demons at bay. Depression and anxiety are serious and should be handled accordingly, based on the individual and their situation.

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