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Invert Your Way Out of Depression and Anxiety: Part I

Prior to our current COVID circumstances, I wrote of research proving that yoga poses incorporated with regulated breath work (pranayama) drastically reduced depressive symptoms.  Interestingly, there is a known correlation between depression and anxiety, which realizes that reducing one reduces the other.  Regular practitioners of yoga are nodding their heads as they read these words.  From their first yoga class, and in each one following, they had a felt experience of mood elevation as well as greater strength, ease and relaxation in both mind and body. 

As a beginner yogi builds greater strength and tone, they learn more challenging inversions such as headstand (Sirsasana), handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) and shoulder stand (Sarvangasana).  In these inversions, we challenge our fear of the unknown by turning our world upside-down.  Allowing ourselves to experience the unknown by “leaning into our fears” is exactly what counters depression and anxiety, and eventually removes both from our bodies and minds. Take it from someone who has already done so, you can heal yourself from both of these ailments.

Given the rise of mental health issues due to a drastic peak in COVID cases, a daily “felt experience” of mood elevation is definitely needed. Over the next several weeks, I am offering a variety of inversion yoga practices with that intent in mind. If you apply the yoga actions below to each of the poses in the sequence, you will further enhance your experience. Depending on the depth of your yoga practice, hold each of the poses for 5 to 15 breaths.

YOGA ACTION: Engage Ujjayi breathing and maintain this regulated pranayama breath while in each posture as well as during the transitions between postures.

Ujjayi breath is established by partially closing the back of the throat, which creates an ocean- or Darth Vadar-like sound.

To bring a meditative state to the following sequence, you could begin your Ujjayi breath in seated Virsana (Hero) for 3 to 5 minutes before proceeding with the remaining poses.


WALL STRETCH 10 Breaths (Bs)
– press the hips away from the wall


ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (Downward Dog) 10 Bs
– balance the torso weight between the hands and feet


KUMBHAKASANA PUSH-UPS (Plank Push-ups) 5 REPs
– Sirsasana arms; walk toes toward hands
– Inhale forward; nose to floor in front of knuckles
– Exhale back; forehead to floor behind thumbs


HEADLESS SIRSASANA (Headstand) 10 – 20 Bs
– Walk-up OR Kick-up with 5 blocks at wall
– Press into forearms to keep head lifted off floor


SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA (Wedge) 30 Bs
– edge of bolster into back of respiratory diaphragm
– shoulders rest on floor


SAVASANA (Corpse) 5 – 10 minutes
– weight on wrists to release back of shoulders to floor

May we be peaceful and at ease. Namaste.

Author: Helen Maupin

Author: Helen Maupin

Helen is passionate about transforming fear into love — from her, for her, for all. She expresses her commitment to transformation through writing poetry, self-awareness and yoga books, co-designing organizations into adaptive enterprises and deepening her daily meditation and yoga practices.

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