The word “Yoga” comes the Sanskrit root “yuj”, which means unity, to yoke, to join or to direct and concentrate one’s attention. In short it is the union of mind and body. (1, 2)

South-Asian countries have rich history of Yoga for over 5000 thousand years and considered as holistic approach for health. However western countries have recently received much of the attention and classified Yoga as Complementary and Alternative Medicine by National Institutes of Health. (1, 2)

Yoga practice can help in improving the physical, mental and emotional health of an individual an some of the yoga poses might have positive impact on improving the life of people suffering with depression, stress and anxiety. (3, 4, 5)

Increasing stress, anxiety and depression have become the attributes of modern life but due to ineffectiveness and side effects of medication prescribed for stress and depression noninvasive and alternative method of treatment like Yoga and meditation has become quintessential. (1, 5 ,6)

Yoga practice is known to improve the quality of life in individuals with stress and depression however it can’t be the cure of it. Severe condition of stress and depression require medications ailing with yoga practice to yield better result. (5, 7)

10 Yoga Poses to Improve Mental Health

Though yoga practice is known to improve the quality of life of every individual however it might be very much helpful for the individuals struggling with stress, anxiety and depression. (5, 7)

Certain yoga poses have been known to improve mental health with almost zero side effects if practiced under guidance of Yoga Gurus.

Camel Pose

Ustarasana or camel pose helps in releasing stress and improve blood circulation in the body. Enhanced blood circulation means increased oxygen supply to mind and body which may result in improved mental and physical health. (4, 8, 9)

This yoga pose opens up the heart chakra and helps in releasing the emotions, make people cry sometimes which performing this pose. (9)

Effects: Improves flexibility, respiration & digestion; stretches hip & abdominal muscle; relieves tension in shoulder, neck & back (10)

How to Do:

  • Sit on knees
  • Make sure your thighs are perpendicular to floor
  • Make sure your toes touch the floor and sole faces upwards
  • Put your hand on hip
  • Move one hand from hip and touch the toe
  • Move the other hand
  • Flex your neck backward if it feels okay

Child Pose

Balasana or child pose is the resting pose which provides sense of calmness, stability and ease stress & fatigue. It very help in improving the stability and concentration. In addition to this this pose is very helpful if you have trouble sleeping. (4, 8, 9, 11, 13)

This pose is otherwise very helpful in releasing the tension however people with knee and hip injury should be very careful about it. (9)

Effects: Releases spinal, hamstring & rotor muscles; calm the nerves (12, 13)

How to Do:

  • Kneel on the floor and bring back your toes together
  • Separate your knees hips width apart
  • Exhales and sink your torso on thighs
  • Relax your hand alongside with torso facing backwards and palm facing up
  • If you want, you can move your hand forward with palm facing down
  • Keep forehead down and roll your head on either side
  • Take steady breathe with your nose

Bridge Pose

Setu Bandhasana or bridge pose is a powerful inversion which opens up the space around the heart. This pose is very much helpful for the nervous system as head is below the heart provides enhanced blood circulation and oxygen to brain. It has very soothing and calming effect on our mind. (4, 5, 8, 9)

Effects: Improved blood circulation and oxygen supply; stretches abdominal muscles; reduces anxiety, stress and depression; reduces insomnia (9)

How to Do:

  • Lie down on your back (as in Savasana position) with both the leg together
  • Hands on the sides of the thighs with palm facing downward
  • Fold your legs from the knees while your feet touching the ground
  • Slowly raise the body keeping head and neck on the floor while whole body is in air
  • Return to the original position (Savasana)

Fish Pose

Matsyasana or Fish Pose is another asana which helps in releasing pent up emotions. It helps in relieving tightness in chest &back and opens up the area around your heart. The regular practice of this asana helps in building confidence and grow emotionally. (4, 5, 8, 9, 13)

Effects: Relieves tightness in chest and back; stretches abdominal, hip flexors and trapezius muscles (13)

How to Do:

  • Sit with your legs stretched out and together
  • Put your palms below your buttocks while palms facing down
  • Bring your elbow together and expand your chest
  • Lean back on to your forearms and elbow while keeping your chest expanded
  • Lean your head backwards or put on the cushions as per the convenience

Corpse Pose

Savasana or Corpse Pose one of the easiest but most powerful asana. Most of the yoga sessions ends with this asana. Savasana provides you opportunity to relieves anxiety & stress and recuperate.  It relaxes and calms our mind and body. (4, 5, 8, 9, 11)

Effects: Relieves mind and body, relieves stress and anxiety and reduces symptoms of depression, recuperation (4, 11)

How to Do:

  • Lie on your back on the mat
  • Hug your knees close t your chest and take a deep breath
  • Exhale and stretch your leg while keeping your tailbone on ground
  • The feet should be hips width apart and relaxed away from each other
  • Let your body soften and relax
  • Relax your arms on the side with palm facing upwards

Tree Pose

Vriksasana or tree pose requires full concentration while leaving the racing thoughts behind. This asana is very helpful in improving the concentration, balancing and strengthening leg and thighs muscles. (4, 9, 13)

In some of the study it if found to be very helpful in relieving the back pain when practiced along with other asanas. (9, 14)

Effects: Improves balance and concentration and relieves mind; relieves back pain; stretches abdominal, quadriceps and tibialis anterior muscles (9, 13, 14)

How to Do:

  • Stand straight, put your weight on right leg and try to lift left leg slowly
  • Turn the left leg so that the sole of left leg facing towards the interior of your right leg
  • Place it on interior of either ankle or calf or thighs of right leg
  • Don’t press your feet against the knees
  • Bring your hand together in namaste style in front of your chest or pointing the hands (namaste style) in upward direction above your head
  • Hold the position for 1-2 minutes
  • Relax and repeat the asana with other leg

Bow Pose

Dhanurasana or bow pose provides good stretches to the body. It opens up shoulder, chest, neck and helps in relieving tension from this area. It helps in relieving the stress and fatigue. (4, 5, 8)

In addition to these it helps in relaxing and strengthening different muscles and improves the digestion and flexibility of the back. (15)

Effects: Relieves anxiety and stress; improves back flexibility; strengthen abdominal and back muscle while tones arm and leg muscle; stimulates reproductive organs (15)

How to Do:

  • Lie on your stomach keeping the feet hips width apart
  • Keep your arm on the side of the body
  • Fold your leg backwards and try to hold your ankles with your hand
  • Breathe in and lift your chest above the mat and while pulling your legs up and backwards
  • Look straight ahead and pay attention to your breathe
  • Stretch as long as your body supports, don’t overstretch your body
  • After 15-20 seconds exhale and slowly bring the chest and legs down and relax

Downward-Facing Dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward-Facing Dog can be practiced by any beginner and can be include in part of daily yoga. It helps in relieving stress and anxiety and at the same time energizes the whole body. (4, 5, 12, 16)

This posture replicates the forward bending of down hence it got its name as Adho-Mukha Savasana.

Effects: Relieves stress and anxiety and energizes our body; calms mind; increases circulation in brain; strengthen the whole body especially chest muscle and increases lung capacity (12, 16)

How to Do:

  • Lie on your stomach with your palm on side of your chest with finger open
  • Come on your hand and knees while keeping the knee directly below your hip and hands slightly forward of your shoulder
  • Exhale and raise your buttocks high in the air and moving your thighs up and back
  • Keep your elbow straight while lifting your buttocks and release four head
  • Its variant can also use head support such that it enough to elongate the neck and at the same time provide support to your head

Standing Forward Bend

Hastapadasana or Standing Forward Bend helps in relaxing the body and at the same time releases tension from the body. It may help in providing calmness through increased oxygen supply to the brain. (4, 5, 9, 13, 17)

This yoga poses play very important role in stretching the body muscles especially lower back and neck and invigorates the nervous system by increasing the blood supply. (9, 17)

Effects: Releases stress, anxiety and depression; increases blood circulation; stretches spinal, hamstring and neck muscles; tones abdominal organs (9, 13, 17)

How to Do:

  • Stand straight with your feet hips width apart
  • Extend your body forward and then over your leg to elongate spine
  • Hold on to your elbow or let your hand rest on the floor
  • Release tension in your lower back and hips and let your neck hung heavy towards floor
  • Hold the position and breathe slowly and smoothly through your nose

Seated Forward Bend

Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend helps in relieving the condition of anxiety and stress along with its symptoms. It helps in re-focusing of thoughts and clams our mind. (4, 9, 13, 18)

Effects:  Reduces anxiety, stress and associated symptoms; relaxes pelvic, erector spinae, gluteus maximus and gastrocnemius muscles (13, 18)

How to Do:

  • Sit on the yoga mat with your leg stretched in front of you
  • You may keep slight bend in your knees
  • Inhale and lift your arms
  • Slowly bend forward and exhale while keeping your hand on the legs or floor
  • Hold the position for 2-3 minutes

Summary

Yoga practices has been very helpful in preventing serious health condition over thousands of years. Moreover, it also has very positive result when practices along with medications as complementary treatment in several diseases. These yoga poses help in relaxing and rejuvenating our mind and provide ideal path to overcome the tyranny of stress, anxiety and depression. Every individual should include few of the yoga poses in their morning activities to rem