Yoga for Depression

Swami Veda Bharati holds the prestigious title of Mahamandaleshwara in the Swami order of monks.  He is also the Chancellor of HIHT University, Dehradun, which was established by Master Swami Rama. He has authored approximately 18 books on Indian spirituality including a 1500 page comprehensive commentary on two of the four chapters of Patanjali’s Yoga-sutras. Before taking the vows of Swamihood in 1992, Swami Veda Bharati was known as Dr. Usharbudh Arya.

Below is the advice I normally give to those suffering from depression

Depression is an illness and has two major types of causes: hormonal or psychological. The two become intertwined. Only an expert can tell which came first in a particular case: whether hormonal imbalance caused psychological condition or a long nurtured psychological condition triggered the hormonal imbalance.

One must get thorough medical and psychological testing.

Denial is dangerous, saying to oneself, 'nothing is wrong with me', 'I don't need a doctor'. These thoughts are dangerous and perpetuate the illness.

First step is to stop blaming yourself as though you are doing something guilty, or, as though you are betraying some swami, parent, wife, husband, or any other. None of this.

The second step is the verse from Bhagavad-gita that I have often used in my life in order to reach wherever I have reached:

Uddhared aatmanaatmaanam
Naatmaanam ava-saadayet
Aatmaive hyaatmano bandhur
Aatmaive ripur aatmanah

Raise yourself by yourself
Do not let yourself get depressed;
self alone is the self's friend
self alone is the self's foe.

Bhagavad-gita Chapter 6, verse 5

Or read Swami Rama's commentary on this verse in his PERENNIAL PSYCHOLOGY OF THE BHAGAVAD-GITA.

Do some aerobic exercises regularly, fast walking, jogging. Just make up your mind to do it and push yourself against your will.

Bhastrika and kapala-bhati. These pranayamas three times a day like a doctor's pill. Not in excess. Stop before getting hyperventilated.

Nadi Shodhanam, pranayama also known as anuloma-viloma has many versions. Do three times a day.
The pranayamas should be learnt by some one trained in the Himalayan tradition of yoga meditation. Nowadays half-ripe teachers are teaching these incorrectly without first teaching (1) correct sitting (2) relaxation (3) diaphragmatic breathing (4) position of spine and neck during pranayama and the correct mudra of the fingers.

One suffering from depression should not be taught deep relaxation but just short 'tension-and-relaxation' method.

One suffering from depression should never do long meditations. Short, maximum 3 or 4 minutes every two or three hours whether it is with counting the breath or with mantra.

Depression is suppressed anger. Permit yourself to be angry. I wish I was closer to give you the mantra that gets you angry.

Do not seek solitude at this time please; try to be in jolly company even if you have to push yourself to do it.

A lot of times these are simple hormonal conditions, and not psychological ones. Menopause etc are well known temporary factors. Hormonal exhaustion during childbirth may cause post partem depression. Only an expert can tell the real cause after a thorough examination.

The above suggested practices should be used in association with a psychiatrist's (not to be confused with only a psychologist) advice, especially as to some pills that balance the hormones. Yes, this advice comes from somebody who does believe in holistic health and do please take it seriously.

When you feel somewhat stabilized you may slowly, under medical care and advice only, wean yourself of the need for a pill and carry on with the above psycho-spiritual instruments. These are life-long practices beneficial not merely as antidotes to depression but for overall psychological strengthening of oneself.

Randall

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