How Yoga can help you deal with Isolation and Depression


Whether you feel alone because of your thoughts and feelings or live in isolation on account of some health condition, a social anxiety disorder, or work in a remote location, isolation can be overwhelming. We are all social animals and without adequate contact with other human beings, we are vulnerable to loneliness and depression.

This became abundantly clear during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic when lockdowns and quarantines disrupted our social lives and forced us into isolation. There was a dramatic rise in depression and anxiety disorders, fueled by feelings of loneliness and stress in the period. For some of us, isolation can still feel like an inescapable reality, but yoga can help you deal with it and overcome it.

How Yoga Helps Manage Isolation and Depression

Yoga has long been recognized for its holistic health benefits, strengthening the mind-body connection. With its combination of physical poses or asanas, breathing exercises or pranayamas, and meditation, yoga provides us with physical exercise, as well as mental and spiritual rejuvenation. This became increasingly evident and important in 2020 as yoga was commonly recommended as a tool to cope with isolation and other mental and emotional problems.

This recommendation is strongly supported by several studies, including research that was published in Frontiers in Psychology. The analysis points to the positive effect of any home-based exercise program, including yoga, on mood, anxiety levels, and social and emotional well-being. This was also notable in patients with chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Yoga programs can help cope with depression, improve functional exercise capacity, and boost quality of life.

Another study that included various types of yoga such as Hatha yoga, Bikram yoga, Kripalu yoga, and Kundalini yoga also reported positive psychophysiological effects from consistent yoga practice within 4 to 8 weeks. All of these positive changes in stress, depression, anxiety, and self-efficacy are linked directly to physiological changes triggered by the practice of yoga. One mechanism that was identified by researchers is that yoga practice increasedendogenous melatonin secretion, promoting a greater sense of well-being. Other ways in which yoga helps manage depression and isolation include:

  • Stress Reduction: Yoga practices, including deep breathing, meditation, and gentle movements, promote relaxation and reduce physiological markers of stress such as cortisol levels. This can alleviate symptoms of depression, boost your mood, and reduce feelings of isolation.
  • Enhanced Mood Regulation: Maintaining a regular routine can help improve mood regulation by increasing levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).These chemicals are linked to mood stability and emotional well-being. Studies show that yoga increases levels of these neurotransmitters, leading to improved mood and decreased symptoms of depression.
  • Mind-Body Connection: Yoga encourages awareness of the mind-body connection through practices that integrate breath, movement, and mindfulness. By cultivating present-moment awareness and acceptance of thoughts and emotions, individuals can develop greater emotional resilience and coping skills, reducing vulnerability to depression and social isolation.
  • Physical Health Benefits:Although we are advised to look beyond the physical health benefits of yoga, as it is not just physical exercise, the physical activity also offers benefits that in turn improve mental well-being – greater flexibility and improved cardiovascular function. These changes can boost self-esteem, increase confidence, and enhance social interactions, combatting feelings of social isolation and improving overall quality of life.
  • Reduced Isolation: With increased self-esteem and a positive body image cultivated through yoga, individuals feel empowered and confident enough to engage in yoga group activities, which also offer a safe space. Such yoga platforms provide opportunities for social connection and support, reducing feelings of isolation and fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance, ultimately leading to reduced social isolation.

The Takeaway

Isolation and depression are common concerns today and yoga can be of significant help. However, it’s important to seek help from mental health professionals if you already suffer from depression as this would make it harder to adopt and stick to a yoga routine. Depression and isolation are serious problems and you don’t have to face them alone. You can find the best therapists online, including qualified psychiatrists, who can help train you with coping skills to deal with depression and isolation and even thrive. Your yoga practice can then become part of your wellness journey to allow you to live a more fulfilling and meaningful life.