From research to real life: feel better and sleep better with yoga


Recently, a systematic review of 16 scientific studies was published on the effects of yoga on depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, sleep complaints, eating disorders and cognition problems (Murali Doraiswamy et al., Frontiers in Psychiatry 2013).

What did they find?

This review found that a yoga program can improve biological factors related to mental health and have similar benefits as antidepressants and psychotherapy. Physiologically, yoga affects neurotransmitters, inflammation, oxidative stress, lipids, growth factors and second messengers, all of which influences mood and emotional well-being.
According to this study, other benefits of a regular yoga practice included 40% reduction in depression symptoms, improved sleep quality and reduced need for sleep aids.
The scientific evidence in support yoga practice on psychiatric disorders is “highly promising” and showed that yoga may not only help to improve symptoms, but also may have an ancillary role in the prevention of stress-related mental illnesses.


Kripalu’s Stephen Cope says “yoga postures improve mood by moving energy through places in the body where feelings of grief or anger are stored… it is an accessible form of self-soothing”
… and since depression is the  biggest threat to the welfare of people with Parkinson’s disease (HERE and HERE and HERE), this makes yoga for Parkinson’s even more important (Yoga for Depression in Parkinson’s). much love.
**Note: The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) says people should not  replace conventional medical care with yoga. Nor should people who practice yoga postpone seeing a health care provider. Patients should tell their doctor about any complementary health practices they use. Anyone with a medical condition should check with a health care provider before starting yoga.

Tutorial – yoga for depression in Parkinson’s – part 2

I wanted to following up with my introduction to depression in Parkinson’s disease and the benefits of yoga (hello, Breath of Joy!). In this TUTORIAL (new regular post!) are 3 yoga poses that I find are constructive ways to release tension, improve mood and find balance.

1. Gentle BackBends or Heart Openers

Here, I want to offer 2 suggestions…

1.A. Fish Pose (Matsyasana)

Benefits: Releases tension and is also good for deep breathing and relaxation. This is a great chest-opener; many people who have depression coupled with anxiety often have feelings of tightness or pressure in the chest—this pose can help ease the pressure. The Fish is also very beneficial for a tense neck, shoulders and lower back.

Contraindications: Back pain, injuries to neck or shoulder

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees straight and keep your feet together with toes pointed to the ceiling.
  • Slide your hands under your thighs and buttocks. This motion should cause your chest to bow upward slightly.
  • Bend the elbows and push them into the floor; use the bend of the elbows and arms to raise the chest higher, keeping the chest arched upward.
  • When the chest is arched as high as possible, drop your head and rest the very top of your head on the floor. Your chin should point to the ceiling.
  • While in this posture, breathe deeply and really enjoy the chest expansion. Hold this position for as long as is comfortable.

OR 1.B. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

Benefits: Back bends may benefit those with depression. Bridge Pose, can be stimulating and fight darkness and delusion.


  • Lie on the floor and place a thickly folded blanket under your shoulders to protect your neck. Bend your knees.
  • Exhale while pressing your inner feet and arms down, then push your tailbone upward, lifting the buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet in line and make sure your knees are directly over your heels.
  • You may progress to clasping your hands below your pelvis and extend through your arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders.
  • Elongate the tailbone toward the backs of the knees and lift the pubis in the direction of the navel. Push the top of the sternum toward the chin.
  • Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine gradually down onto the floor.

2. Child’s Pose (Balasana) – see full post HERE

Benefits: A good, relaxing counter-pose when performed after Fish. Child’s pose is comforting and peaceful. It enables connection of the third eye to the earth and promotes safety and security. It also stretches lower back and shoulders … which feels wonderful!

Contraindications: Back injury.

  • Kneel on the floor, and then sit onto your heels.
  • Open your knees until they are a little more than hip-width apart (giving space for your chest to come down between your thighs).
  • Bend forward at the hip; bring your chest to rest between your thighs.
  • Try and keep your buttocks in contact with your heels (if this is not happening either: A. widen your knees OR B. place a cushion between your hamstrings and buttocks). Also, rest your forehead either on the floor OR on a cushion/folded blanket OR stacked fists.
  • Lengthen your arms out in front of you on either side of your head. You can also slide your arms back to your sides, palms up and relax.

3. Legs up the Wall Pose (viparita karani)

Benefits: This pose is great to calm the mind, and I find it especially relaxing before bed! It’s great to relieve tired or cramped legs and feet. It also relieves mild backaches.

Contraindications: Back injury or glaucoma. *Note: If your feet begin to tingle during this pose, bend your knees, touch your soles together, and slide the outer edges of your feet down the wall, bringing your heels close to your pelvis.

*Note: you can also place your legs on a chair if this creates too much tension on your back or you have difficulty getting into this version of the posture – see HERE

  • Start with a cushion/rolled up blanked about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall. Sit sideways on one end of the support (with your side against the wall) (see pic 3.(prep)) and swing your legs up onto the wall and lean your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor *this may take a few attempts … Your sitting bones should be “dripping” down into the space between the support and the wall and your lower back should be supported by the cushion/blanket (see pic 3.)
  • Elongate the back of your neck and soften your throat *here you can place a small rolled towel under your neck if the cervical spine feels flat. Open your shoulder blades away from the spine and stretch your arms out to your sides, palms up.
  • Keep your legs firm enough to hold them vertically in place.
  • To release, slide off the support onto the floor before turning to the side. You can also bend your knees and push your feet against the wall to lift your pelvis off the support. Then slide the support to one side, lower your pelvis to the floor, and turn to the side.

And most importantly – savasana!

Try these poses to create an open heart and relaxed body and mind! much love.

yoga for depression in Parkinson’s – part 1

Depression is common in Parkinson’s disease, but is not easily distinguished.

The implications of depression in someone with PD and their caregiver(s) can be as grave as physical symptoms, especially since there is a reluctance to admit you are suffering from depression.
In Parkinson’s, depression is less about guilt and self-reproach, but is more focused on the symptoms of irritability, anxiety, sadness, and concern with health. Especially in later stages of the disease, it can be difficult to identify depression among the progressing symptoms (see chart below, Calne 2003).

It is really important to support depression in Parkinson’s by having an advocate, who can speak up about the symptoms if the persons with Parkinson’s and/or caregiver does not feel comfortable. An advocate can help get appropriate counsel, treatment and provide positive reinforcement for both person with Parkinson’s and caregivers.
The practice of yoga can help manage depression. Specially, LifeForce Yoga for depression is a yoga practice that is intentionally designed to work with and manage mood. Amy Weintraub is the founding director of LifeForce Yoga and author of Yoga for Depression. She recovered from her own battle with depression through her meditation and yoga practice. She is also part of the Kripalu family!
Breath of Joy! is one of my favourite ways to get my body moving and bring some joy into my day… and the best part about it is that it is so accessible to anyone! You just need to move with your breath… and feel the love!
P.S. for a more detailed description of Breath of Joy see HERE
Here’s a great video demo by Amy Weintraub
 So, take a moment each day and lean toward joy!  expand your heart, and your capacity to nourish yourself. Identifying signs of depression in Parkinson’s early gives you the best chance to seek the care you need… and yoga is a wonderful tool to help you feel the joy! much love.