Can Depression Be Relieved by Yoga and Meditation?

Robin WilliamsLike all of you, I was shocked and saddened by Robin Williams suicide on August 11, 2014. I considered him a brilliant comedian and fine actor and remember him with a smile. When my children were younger, we gathered together to watch Jumanji, Night at the Museum, Patch Adams, Flubber and Aladdin – and knew we would have a good time. He captivated us and lifted our spirits with his staccato style humor and seemingly boundless energy. What a tragic loss to the world and his family. God bless you Robin. May you be at peace. Thank you for what you gave us.

I was surprised to learn that Robin had suffered from longstanding depression and addiction – such a contrast to some of the characters he played on screen! I thought about depression, reflecting on some of the people I know whose lives have been crippled because of it, and others who make it through. I remember my own brief tango with depression in my early university days, and the feelings of isolation, alienation and loss of meaning that sent me searching. My search lead me to study the writings of Sri Aurobindo, Rudolph Steiner, Carl Jung, the I Ching, Gurdjieff, Osho, Taosim, Buddhism and Indian philosophy. All of these writings helped to connect me with spirit. When I discovered kundalini yoga and meditation at age 19, I was graced repeatedly with an experience of spirit, and found the connection I longed for. I’ve been practicing and teaching kundalini yoga and meditation ever since, and still marvel at its capacity to shift my mental emotional state within a few minutes of practice. In truth, I can’t live my life without it.

I know many people who have suffered from depression who have used kundalini yoga and meditation to peel away layers of darkness.
Let’s examine the signs and symptoms of depression and how yoga and meditation can help.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression How Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Can Help
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Thinking nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation. Yoga and meditation practice help to get you out of your head and connect to the body and breath, being more aware of the present moment.
Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, sports, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure. The structure inherent in a yoga set carries you through it, often fostering a feeling of inner joy.
Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain – any change of more than 5% of body weight in a month is suspect. Yoga helps to connect you to the needs of the body.
Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (more than 9 hours). Yoga, breathing exercises and meditation (such as Shabd Kriya) can help induce a restful sleep.
Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. You are intolerant, can have angry outbursts, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves. Active yoga postures and sets help to release anger from the body; meditation helps us to witness our thoughts without identifying with them or acting out.
Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete. The breathing exercises and fluid postures in kundalini yoga increase energy and free up areas of restriction in the body. When we change our posture, we help to change our mood.
Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness, low self-esteem or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes. Yoga and meditation help us to appreciate our body and gain an experience of “being”, without judgment.
Reckless behaviour. You try to escape through behaviour such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports. Yoga and meditation practice can help develop the frontal lobe of the brain, which can then override impulsive behaviour
Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, planning or remembering things. Internal focus on the breath, posture, a mantra or eye position helps to develop one-pointed concentration and harness the mind.
Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain. The stretches performed during yoga practice help to alleviate muscle aches and pains.


A beautiful book examining Kundalini Yoga for anxiety, depression and mental illness is Sacred Therapies, by David Shannahoff-Khalsa…

We have ongoing yoga classes for anxiety and depression at Trillium Healing Arts in Owen Sound, ON.

We offer Kundalini Yoga teacher training courses in Canmore, AB, Toronto and around the world. Click here for more info.

You can find Kundalini Yoga teachers in most countries and major cities of the world.



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