Several weeks ago, I started a small series on depression. I got a little sidetracked, with moving and starting a new job, but I’m coming back around to this series now!
A few posts back, I discussed how yoga helps with depression. I’ve been reading a wonderful book about yoga and depression by Nancy Liebler and Sandra Moss called Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way. In it, she talks about the different levels of depression, connections with the mind and body, and ways that individuals can lessen their symptoms and feel better. For more information, I highly suggest picking up the book. I will only be sharing a small nibble from it, but they present a great wealth of information on how you can treat depression naturally.
Before I do a post on asanas for depression, I thought it best to do a short one on breathing techniques. I teach my clients breathing a lot in my counseling sessions. Breathing can work wonders on our body – it can help us slow down when anger starts to boil up, it can keep us from having a full blown panic attack, and it can help us slow down and sleep better. Our bodies breathe naturally without us thinking about it, but putting our focus back on our breath can help us use our body’s mechanisms to our advantage. We can do this through meditation or through quick breathing exercises, which I’ll discuss today.
The first breathing technique that Liebler and Moss suggest is three part breathing. This is the base of all balancing breathing techniques. With your spine straight, inhale steadily through your nose very slowly. Fill up your lower lungs, then your middle, then up to the top of your lungs. Your belly will expand outwards as you do this. Begin to exhale through your nostrils, even slower than your inhale. Your belly will start to contract inward naturally as you do this. This technique will relax and release tension in your body (2009).
After successfully accomplishing three part breathing, an individual could try alternate nostril breathing. I loooove alternate nostril breathing, especially during meditation. It helps calm and clear the mind. To do this, close your eyes and take a deep cleansing breath through the nose. Put your right hand up to your nose and close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale slowly, filling up your belly, through your left nostril. Hold on to your inhale after it is complete for a few seconds, then remove your thumb from your right nostril and close your left nostril with your forefinger. Exhale, slowly and completely, with your right nostril. Continue alternating nostrils until you feel ready to stop (Liebler & Moss, 2009).
One more technique, not in this book, is what I call the 4-4-4 breathing. I do not know where I learned this technique, but this is my fall back breathing technique to teach the children and adolescents I work with. It’s easy to remember and can be done in a classroom without other students noticing what they are doing. I recommend this one to my clients that have a hard time handling their anger, but it can also work for depression or anxiety. To do this breathing, inhale slowly through your nostrils for 4 seconds. After completing your inhalation, hold it in your lungs for a full 4 seconds, then begin to exhale slowly through your nose for 4 seconds. See? 4 by 4 by 4. Super easy, and all you have to do is remember one number.
I encourage you to try some of these breathing techniques, whether or not your feeling depression symptoms. The more you practice these techniques, the easier it will be to remember them when you are in need of them, such as a panic attack. Use your body to help you feel calm and relaxed. It doesn’t seem like something so simple would make such a difference, but it really really does.
Next week, I will break down some asanas you can try to soothe depression symptoms. I’m excited about this one; it should be good!
Until next time,
Happy OM’ing and namaste. ❤
Liebler, N., & Moss, S. (2009). Healing depression the mind-body way. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.