Depression–Yoga Perspective

“Depression is a necessary state of mind for positive change”

Yoga has always maintained that depression is a starting point for positive change in life. When our life demands a change, we should let go of the old and accept the new. But if we resist the new changes in life we come across depression.

Story of Buddha: Buddha’s father King Shuddhodan gave him everything. He had all of the material wealth, all the luxuries of life. He was always surrounded by young, strong and beautiful people. But despite of all this he became extremely depressed after seeing an old m an, a sick man, and a dead man. Buddha realized that there is pain and suffering everywhere in life. He could not deal with it and wanted to find a way out. So Buddha left the palace and his family life. Depression was the reason for Buddha’s spiritual jou rney. He performed austerities like fasting, meditation and many other difficult practices for years and finally overcame the pain and suffering in life. If we try and understand the reasons behind the spiritual journey of Buddha then we can see the depres sed state of mind responsible for this spiritual evolution. Had it not been for the depression, Buddha would not have tried to find a new path.

Story of Padavas - In the story of the Pandavas they had their right to the kingdom but they were denied their right by the king who was their uncle. The king gave them a barren, useless piece of forest which had nothing. It was injustice to the Pandavas and a sad and depressing situation. But Lord Krishna told the Pandavas that they should always look at this eve nt as an opportunity. Krishna also told them that they have got an opportunity to show their creativity, create a better kingdom; they have all the freedom to take their decisions which was not there in the old place. And, the Pandavas did build a very pro sperous and powerful new kingdom called “Indraprastha”. In the history it became one of the most popular destinations for people from all parts of the world. Instead of getting depressed, the Pandavas accepted the new situation without any attachment of th e old.

Story of Lord Rama – Rama was a prince of the Ayodhya kingdom. He was very intelligent, generous, and brave and everyone in the kingdom loved him. King Dasharath, who was his father, declared that Rama would become the next king. Everyone in the ki ngdom was very happy but the night before the ceremony his step mother forced the King Dasharath to deny Rama his right to the kingdom. She forced Rama to go into exile for 14 years. Rama could have got depressed but instead he chose the hard path with a s mile. Rama’s wife, Sita, and his brother, Laxman, accompanied him. They had to live in the forest with the absolute bare minimum of things, but they were happy to stay in a hut instead of a palace, eat fruits instead of royal food. Sita was hijacked by the demon King Ravan from the forest. Lord Rama had to fight the war with the evil demon King Ravan, finally Rama won the battle, established law and helped people. If Rama would have got depressed and refused to accept the change then he would never have don e these great favours to humanity.

It is important that we understand the reasons behind depression, with one of the most important reasons being “Attachment with old”. In our life many times situations change and this demands change in our attachments. We must change the attachments to material life, objects, relationships and people, our goals and self - concepts. If we are flexible to let go of old attachments and accept new life with less attachments then we evolve but if we resist this change, we get depressed.

Human nature is to avoid difficulties. The body and mind wants less challenges, the natural tendency of the nervous system is to avoid hard work, hardship and stressful situations. We are getting attached to sensual and material comforts all th e time which leads to weakening of the nervous system. It is this attachment with the easy life which eventually leads to a depressed state of mind when life becomes challenging.

Example of Arjuna and Krishna (Yogeshwara - supreme being of yoga): The entire Bhagavad Gita is based on the depression of Arjuna and how he overcame it. Arjuna experienced extreme depression and asked Krishna for help. Krishna is happy that Arjuna is depressed because now he can reflect on what he’s been doing up until th is point and what he wants do in the future. Depression brings one to this understanding of the important changes that life demands.

Swami Niranjanananda gave a very nice story of a man and a tree . A man sees a tree on his journey, he stops at the tree for shade and fruit, then gets the comfort. After a while gets attached with the comfort and then doesn’t want to leave the tree. He refuses to move on. The man is holding on to that tree and says that the tree won’t let him go. Now if someone cuts down the tree or the tree becomes old and falls down or someone pushes that man out of the tree then he experiences depression.

According to yoga, why do we get depressed? The reason for depression is our conditionings. Because of patterns, how we are taught to think, social systems, religions, cultures and family influences, these are the reasons for depression. So these negative conditionings need to change! Depression is a signal that something is wrong with the old system. Depression shows that a person n eeds a new paradigm. Depression tells us that we need to look inside and bring new concepts, new attitudes and adapt. The purpose of being in depression is CHANGE.

What is the purpose of these stories? When you have depression, you should be happy that you are going to change and evolve.

Yogic Ways of Dealing with Depression:

1. Tapa - Austerities – way to control the mind

  1. One must discipline the mind. The depressed mind doesn’t listen. The more you bring the mind under control, the better it is for you so y ou can control the mind when negative thoughts enter. So focus the mind. Examples of austerities: simplicity, no luxuries, giving up something you like, skipping dinner, silence, less sleep, cold shower, avoiding sweets.

2. Karma Yoga – Learn to be happy by working for others

  1. By helping others without attachment one can feel joy and realize that happiness is not achieved by gaining material things.
  2. Karma yoga teaches us to connect with others, their joy, pain and suffering becomes your own. Share pain and suf fering. Share happiness.
  3. Lord Ram’s wife Sita said she’s not happy without him and would go with him into exile.

3. Vairagya/Renunciation/Non - attachment

  1. We have been taught and conditioned in society to become sad and depressed. Parents give a child a toy w hen he is crying and tell him that he should become happy because he has a toy. So the child learns that when he is sad he should get something. So as we grow older we want cars, money and new objects because we were trained like this since childhood. But, in real life, getting these material objects creates stress and suffering. So yoga says to change the conditionings that connect happiness with material objects.
  2. Example of lotus petal. It’s in water but water doesn’t stick to the petals. Water slides o ff. So become indifferent to and renounce the material things.
  3. Buddha left his family, palace and wealth, becoming indifferent to material life.

4. Bhakti Yoga - learn to channelize emotions

  1. Faith is the result of bhakti. Devotion is a result of bhakti. It makes one optimistic. Ishwari pranadhana - surrender. Bhakti yoga has a positive effect on depression through mantras and kirtan.

These are just some of the ways that yoga can help one to overcome depression and to lead a happy, content and positive life.


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Village Talwade, Trimbak, Nasik

Phone - +91-9822770727

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Yoga Vidya Gurukul

Address of Institute office in Nasik

Yoga Vidya Dham, Kaivalya Nagari,
College Road, Nashik - 422005.
Maharashtra, India.

Phone - +91-9822770727 (for courses in ENGLISH)

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Village Talwade, Trimbak, Nasik

Phone - +91-9822770727

E-mail - or

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