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Depression and Chronic Illness—How Iyengar Yoga May Help

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As we learned in the first part of this article, there are many different forms of yoga that we can try, each with its own focus and goals. One such version is called Iyengar yoga. People who do this type of yoga spend a lot of time and effort making sure that each of the poses is done correctly. The idea is that when a pose is done in the right way, it will help us achieve emotional and physical benefits because our bodies will be in the correct alignment.

Another way that Iyengar yoga is different from other forms is that there isn’t much of a smooth transition between one pose to the next. In other types of yoga, when you exhale you typically move into the next pose, giving the whole class a sort of flowing almost choreographed and graceful look. With Iyengar yoga, there is not a lot of smooth flowing between poses. Once you get into a pose, you hold it for some time while you work to get your alignment just right. Before going onto the next pose, students typically rest in what’s known as a child pose or the rather unusual-sounding corpse pose. While Iyengar yoga might not give your heart the same workout as more flowing forms of yoga can, holding and perfecting each pose is an excellent strength builder and can really help with flexibility.

Because Iyengar used yoga to help himself get better, he continued to find ways to take his form of yoga and use it to help people get better from a variety of ailments. Things like chronic backache, high blood pressure, depression, and insomnia have specific forms of Iyengar yoga to go with them. The poses can be adjusted based on how people are doing physically.

One study of Iyengar yoga found that it works well to help treat depression, especially when done in conjunction with traditional treatments. In the study, 17 subjects, all of whom had major unipolar depression went to at least six Iyengar yoga classes. At the end of the study, the group reported feeling less depressed, less anxious, and not as angry.

This form of yoga was new to me, and so I’m extra curious to hear from people who have tried it. What do you think of Iyengar yoga?

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EmpowHER Guest

In the UK Iyengar Yoga is very popular. I have taught it for over 20 years. It differs from many other forms due to the awareness and precision we teach, now called 'mindfulness'. We do not play music, or let our minders wander as happens in other schools. I find it to be an earthing, grounding practice. Our emphasis on finding balance in the body and therefore the mind. We do not just go with flexibility, which flowing styles often do. We actually try to encourage firmness in the body and therefore firmness in the mind. Hence its benefit to these mental health conditions.

February 1, 2016 - 4:47am


What an interesting and informative post. I have never heard of this type of yoga before, but I will definitely keep an eye out for it now. It sounds like it could be a real blessing for those dealing with depression, especially those who do not care to take meds. Thanks for writing. I hope you get some feedback from those who have tried it!!

April 1, 2010 - 8:29am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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