Benefits of Yoga in Managing Depression among the Elderly

Benefits of Yoga in Managing Depression among the Elderly


Depression is a complex mental illness that has profound effects on the elderly. Indeed, depression is caused by a collection of genetic, biochemical, and psychological factors, and can negatively affect a person or society. The World Health Organization has projected that depression will be the leading cause of disability across the globe in 2030. Currently, depression coupled with anxiety and schizophrenia is among the top ten causes of death among the older population. Notably, sadness is an inevitable part of the life of the elderly, especially those aged 50-years and above. Aging reduces the ability of a person to be productive and upsets the capability to derive pleasure in daily activities. As such, the experience of depression supersedes mood and negatively affects personal, social, and professional life. There is adequate evidence disclosing that yoga is beneficial in mitigating depression. A yoga exercise is beneficial in managing depression within the elderly population by coordinating mind and body.

Depression among the elderly

Depression is common among the elderly. However, it should not be construed as a component of aging. It is a normal occurrence for elderly people to go through periods of sadness as they have to deal with myriad issues ranging from sexuality to prejudice directed at them by other members of the population. In addition, most older adults are neglected by their close relatives who consider them unproductive. CDC claims that there are many older adults suffering from depression in the United States. To support the claim, CDC reveals that currently, depression affects between 1 and 5 percent of the general elderly population. Out of the number, 13.5 percent often require home-based care and 11.5 percent seek psychological help in hospitals (CDC n.p). Depression varies from one person to another, and the variation has been the reason for many cases of misdiagnosis. In some cases, psychologists and medical professionals have mistaken depression to be age-related medical problems. As well, the symptoms have been wrongly interpreted to be illnesses and life changes associated with the aging population. Regrettably, there is a potential risk of suicide with major depressive disorder among the elderly population. CDC discloses that in 2015, about 19.4 percent of suicide was committed by people aged 85-years and above. The highest rate was among individuals between 45 and 65 years of age. Historically, suicide remains a threat with most cases resulting from depression. It is imperative to seek immediate assistance from yoga therapists.

Older adults may hesitate to talk about their feelings. A section of these people also fails to recognize the physical symptoms associated with depression. The people experiencing difficulties in talking about their medical problems are those who stay alone. Wang and Blazer reveal the common symptoms of depression among the elderly include persistent sadness, increased worries, and hopelessness (335). In addition, it is disclosed that depressed older adults feel worthless, experience weight changes, develop sleeping problems, and experience difficulties concentrating in routine activities (340). Additionally, persistent depression may trigger other life-threatening medication problems like cancer, stroke, heart disease, lupus, and diabetes. Providentially, training the elderly on yoga exercises can address their mind and body needs regardless of whether they live independently or stay with close family and friends.

Any older adult diagnosed with depression has to meet the diagnostic criteria and share common symptoms with other people suffering from depression. However, Cox and D’Oyley assert that depression is largely a personal illness, and yoga can be an essential part of the routine that provides a personalized response (348). As such, being a personal issue, yoga is a comprehensive response initiative addressing both mind and body needs. Depression experience can vary from an older adult to another, but Cox and D’Oyley agree that depression is unique as it develops from myriad circumstances (349). This is why Cox and D’Oyley claim that depression has no definitive cause (350). Depending on an individual, depression can last for months or appear sporadically within a given period. As outlined the symptoms that manifest are diverse thereby requiring specific types of yoga therapy. For instance, as one person may experience persistent sadness, the other person may experience an emotional breakdown and lack of interest in life activities.

Doctors often recommend counseling and psychological therapies to assist patients to cope with depression. Mehta and Sharma have shown that yoga is the simplest, cheapest, and most effective way to deal with depression (159). Essentially, yoga provides customized services based on the individual needs of a patient. Yoga therapy is effective in empowering elderly people with tools to help them take control of their daily life routines. A yoga exercise is predominantly pertinent to older adults who may sometimes take longer to access the counseling and psychological therapies recommended by doctors. In the United States, about 10 to 30 percent of the elderly population is treatment-resistant as defined by mental health guidelines (CDC n.p). In such extreme cases, yoga therapy is an effective strategy that not only helps the patients deal with depression but also bridges the treatment gaps created by resistance to treatment methods.

Yoga and management of depression

In essence, Yoga may not treat depression but may be beneficial in helping patients find meaning in life and create happiness. Mehta and Sharma opine that antidepressants and psychotherapy recommended by doctors only help to manage anxiety and depression and not create happiness (165). Yoga therapists help patients to feel happier and connected to the rest of the people in society. Mehta and Sharma confirm that yoga transforms the lives of the elderly and makes them create new thinking patterns, feel self-love and return to their former life (169). As such, yoga exercises are effective in restoring trust in life when dealing with either positive or negative factors. Mehta and Sharma mention that the common causes of depression among the elderly are consistent worries about financial or medical problems (160). The elderly people who have tried yoga therapy reveal that it alters the inner-self of people in a broad array of ways.

Yoga is largely seen as a self-managed exercise. Marefat, Peymanzad, and Alikhajeh have found out that regular physical exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve the physical health and mood of a person (1494). As such, Yoga involves aerobic exercises that work by releasing mood-elevating chemicals in the brain. Chemicals like endorphins are effective in decreasing cortisol, a stress-causing hormone. Elderly people suffer from depression because they have unprecedented problems with their mental and physical well-being. Therefore, encouraging them to attend yoga classes is beneficial because it allows older adults to stretch and strengthen their body muscles. In addition, Marefat, Peymanzad, and Alikhajeh show that yoga exercise allows the heart to pump adequate blood nutrients to the muscles to enhance a balance between the body and mind (1495). Marefat, Peymanzad, and Alikhajeh outline that yoga, as a form of exercise is useful to patients suffering from depression, and are in need of reintegrating the body and mind to work together in achieving life goals (1497). As a consequence, a yoga exercise may be strenuous, so it imperative to evaluate the physical capabilities of the elderly before introducing them to yoga sessions. Nonetheless, yoga therapy is instrumental in creating a connection between the body and mind motivating the ability of the body to adjust to the right mood. As a result, for an additional mood boost, the elderly can be encouraged to take part in outdoor yoga practice.

The elderly suffering from depression often experiences difficulty in managing emotions. Yoga therapy presents them with the opportunity to handle emotion and reclaim their body. In other words, yoga therapy is significant in making an elderly understand emotions and part of his or her body responsible for sadness. Falsafi and Leopard outline that Yoga is important to patients who is experiencing depression as a result of trauma (290). This has been achieved through the use of words like investigating and experience used by yoga therapists to understand the physical and mental state of patients. In addition, Falsafi and Leopard confirm that yoga exercise cultivates the sensation to identify, label, and establish communication between internal awareness and perceptions (293). Thus, elderly people reap benefits from yoga activities fundamental in helping them understand and contextualize how to respond to stressful events like the loss of a loved one, sickness, and financial difficulties. Undeniably, older adults participating in yoga exercises are most likely to improve their ability to understand internal perceptions and take care of themselves. This is anchored on the assertion of Falsafi and Leopard claiming that older adults are better helped if they can speak clearly about their emotions and perceptions (294). As a consequence, elderly people take care of themselves by succinctly expressing their physical and mental needs to yoga therapists.

Yoga is a practice that combines mindfulness and cognitive practices to mitigate depression. According to Falsafi and Leopard, the integration of mindfulness and cognitive therapy among depressed elders is potent in allowing them to cope with stress and anxiety (296).  Falsafi and Leopard further define mindfulness as the ability of patients to maintain awareness of thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and the environment through self-nurturing initiatives. Additionally, mindfulness therapies encourage acceptance and empower the elderly population to pay attention to their thoughts and feelings before judging whether they are positive or negative. Falsafi and Leopard show that the tendency to focus on personal thoughts and feelings is common in yoga classes. This is achieved when yoga instructors request participants to focus on their breathing rhythms. Moreover, the elderly attending yoga sessions are sometimes asked to manage their body sensations to create awareness about thoughts and emotions. As such, older adults are encouraged to incorporate mindfulness yoga in their daily lives. This is the simplest form of yoga therapy that creates a huge difference in the thoughts and emotions of depressed individuals.

Yoga is a communal activity. The core reason why older adults experience depression is that they are isolated and are not in touch with the rest of the community.  This problem is common among the elderly living independently. Isolated people are deprived of the opportunity of talking about their problems as they have lost contact with the people. As such, yoga therapy bridges the gap existing between isolated individuals and the rest of the community. Borchard defines yoga as the social connection that allows people to initiate and maintain happiness. The essential role of yoga therapy is to create social connection, and as supported by Borchard, it is useful in improving well-being across cultures. In some societies, happier people tend to be more social, establish and maintain stronger relationships. In addition, children growing up with rich social connections tend to be happier adults in the future. As such, socialization is one of the ways that people connect to others to create a social, happier, and positive society. The role of yoga exercise in creating happiness should not be undermined because the elderly rely on positive moods to accomplish daily activities.

Yoga is beneficial in mitigating depression as discussed. However, there is less research to provide evidence on the effectiveness of different yoga in managing depression among the elderly. Nonetheless, Borchard concurs that physical exercise is a predictor of good health and wellness among the elderly. In consequence, the elderly are different and experience varied depression symptoms. This means that yoga trainers should always find the best exercise that suits the physical capability of specific adults. Borchard asserts that strenuous and more physically demanding Yoga exercise may not be appropriate to some patients. The process of recommending the best yoga exercise should be an ongoing process to determine the best therapy that works for different clients. Borchard further exemplifies that creating an understanding and discussing with the client can be significant in setting expectations and providing guidance on the choice of a yoga therapy. Borchard contends that the styles vary with regard to physical intensity and rigor, temperature, physical emphasis. Consequently, a yoga exercise can be different with regards to breathing focus, physical postures, and mindfulness required to effectively practice. Hence, initiating discussions with the elderly to ascertain their physical and mental goals is essential in encouraging them to think about the diverse types of yoga therapies available for selection.


Yoga therapy is important to the elderly population because it helps in the management of symptoms and initiative strategies to deal with depression. The therapy or practice can be used for mild cases of depression as a self-care technique to prevent the worsening of symptoms capable of triggering chronic diseases like cancer, heart attack and avoiding cases of suicide attempts among patients. Yoga therapy has proven to be an effective intervention for patients who have developed treatment resistance. As such, yoga therapies establish the foundation upon which an elderly can commence a physical exercise regime.  In addition, yoga practice offers a community support sense by providing the platform where depressed elderly can socially connect and interact with others to get the necessary help. Essentially, social help is important for depressed elders to alleviate feelings of worthless and personal blame that may erect barriers to derail improvement of physical and mental wellness. It is also critical to select the best yoga exercise because some strenuous activities may not be suitable for everyone. Certainly, incorporating yoga practice and therapies in routine activities is the first step towards taking care of body and mind.

Works Cited

Borchard, Therese. “How Yoga Helps with Depression, Anxiety and Addiction”. Psych Central, 8 July, 2018. -with-depression-anxiety-and-addiction/. Accessed December 15, 2019.

CDC. “Depression is Not a Normal Part of Growing Older,” Division of Population Health, January 31, 2017. Accessed December 15, 2019.

Cox, Darcy and D’Oyley, Heather. “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Older Adults”. BCMJ, Vol. 53, No. 7, 2011, pp. 348-352.

Falsafi, Nasrin and Leopard, Louisa. “Use of Mindfulness, Self-compassion, and Yoga Practices with Low-income and/or Uninsured Patients with Depression and/or Anxiety”.  J Holist Nurs, Vol. 33, 2015, pp. 289–297.

Marefat,  Mina, Peymanzad, Hossein and Alikhajeh, Yaser. “The Study of the Effects of Yoga Exercises on Addicts’ Depression and Anxiety in Rehabilitation Period”. Procedia Soc Behav Sci, Vol. 30, 2011, pp. 1494–1498.

Mehta, Purvi and Sharma, Manoj. “Yoga and Complementary Therapy for Clinical Depression”. Complement Health Pract Rev. Vol. 15, 2010, pp. 156–170.

Wang, Sophia and Blazer, Dan. “Depression and Cognition in the Elderly”. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 11, 2015, pp. 331-36