Issue 22

LifeForce Yoga® for Depression

News & Research

Issue #22 Spring Summer/2009

Feeling lonely can be bad for your health. Current scientific findings tell us that a sense of loneliness or isolation, regardless of the size of our social networks, is not only a source of depression but that it actually changes our genes. Lonely people show over-expression of immune system activation (such as inflammation) and under-expression of antiviral responses and antibody production. “We found,” says Steve Cole, author of the UCLA study, “that changes in immune cell gene expression were specifically linked to the subjective experience of social isolation.” Loneliness literally makes us sick.

The yogis understood this thousands of years ago. They knew that the loneliness we feel is based on a false notion of our separation. This false notion is called Avidya, and it literally means ignorance of who we truly are: whole and connected energetically to all of nature. Some of us lived through tormented childhoods where we may have had to wall off our feelings, disconnecting from our own bodies. When this has happened, we carry that sense of separation with us throughout our lives in the form of depression. Our Yogic practices can be an antidote. Yoga that includes attention to body sensation and breath breaks through that sense of separation so that we literally feel our connection–to ourselves, to each other, to the divine.

If you are feeling alone today, perhaps it’s time to turn off the computer and call a friend, make a date to walk with a neighbor, or go to a Yoga class. I hope to connect with you soon!

A loving namasté,


In This Issue













A new brain-imaging study points to thinning of the right cortex as a marker of vulnerability to depression. Scientists at the Columbia University Medical Center studied individuals at high risk for depression due to a family history of the mood disturbance. After conducting scans of these individuals, they found thinning in the right cortex of the brain – even if they had never suffered a depressive episode. Imaging scans were given to 131 subjects, half of whom were considered high risk. The high risk group showed significant thinning (28%) across the right cerebal hemisphere, compared with the low risk group.

“If you have thinning in this portion of the brain, it interferes with the processing of emotional stimuli,” Dr. Peterson said, the lead author of the study. “We think that’s what makes them vulnerable to developing anxiety and depression – it essentially isolates them in an emotional world.”

COMMENTARY: It is interesting to compare this recent finding with Sarah Lazar’s groundbreaking study. Her research team at MIT found that meditation practice actually thickens right prefrontal cortical thickness, suggesting that meditation can offset the effects on the brain of depression and normal age-related cortical thinning.

To hear an interview with Dr. Peterson on NPR’s Science Friday:

The paper is to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


During a Yoga teacher training at the Vivekandra Kendra Research Institute in Bangalore, thirty (30) male participants formed two groups. Both groups were comparable in age (20-35) and experience with the two breathing techniques. One group practiced a rapid breath (kapalabhati) while the other group practiced breath awareness. Both practices (HFYB and Breath awareness), though very different, influenced the P300, which measures attention. The rapid breathing reduced the peak latency, which, according to Richard Brown, MD of Columbia University and co-author of How to Use Herbs, Nutrients and Yoga in Mental Health Care, means that Kapalabhati “influenced the speed of paying attention.” On the other hand, breath awareness increased the P300 peak amplitude, which means that more of the subjects’ brains “brains were working on paying attention.”

2009: Joshi Meesha; Telles Shirley

A nonrandomized non-naive comparative study of the effects of kapalabhati and breath awareness on event-related potentials in trained yoga practitioners.

Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) 2009;15(3):281-5.


A recent study published in the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine measured the cerebral blood flow before and after a 12-week training program in Iyengar Yoga. There were 4 participants who were new to yoga and meditation. The subjects’ brains were studied with SPECT imaging scans. Participants were led through a series of postures designed to rest and induce the relaxation response in the individual. They were also instructed in meditation and pranayama.

They found that the participants were able to induce changes in their baseline brain function as well as activate their brain to a greater extent. Scientists also found greater activations in the right hemisphere during the act of meditation. The amygdala and sesorimotor cortex were also affected. A majority of the of the changes associated with the active state of meditation occurred in the frontal lobes.


Researchers at Northwestern University surveyed 7,000 players of the virtual game EverQuest II. They found that depression levels in the groups ranged from almost 21% in people who didn’t play the game that often to more than 30% in those who played a lot. “This could mean that highly active players get more depressed or that depressed people are more likely to be active role players,” said the author of the study, Noshir Contractor, a professor of behavioral science.

COMMENTARY: Most virtual video game players are playing alone. Loneliness is now linked, not only to depression, but to genetic changes in the immune system that increase vulnerability to disease and lower resistance to viral infection. The ancient yogis believed that a sense of separation is the source of depression. In a virtual electronic-based culture we are finding fewer oppportunities for authentic connection.


Dr. Brian Primack and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh and at Harvard Medical School, used the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health to explore the relationship between electronic media exposure in over 4000 adolescents who were not depressed at baseline and had ensuing depression in the following 7 years. At follow-up, 7% reported symptoms consistent with depression. Of those 7% those that indicated more television had greater odds of developing depression – for each hour of television, the risk of developing depression increased by 8%. Young men were found to be more susceptible than young women.

Published in the February 2009 Archives of General Psychiatry,


If you would like more information about a program, or to register, click on the Program Title


Lenox, MA (April 24 – 26)

LifeForce Yoga Meets Complementary Medicine to Manage Mood

Amy is teaching with psychopharmacologist Richard Brown, MD

In this new program, you will learn and experience profound changes with the LifeForce Yoga strategies along with Coherent Breathing and Open Focus Meditation-two self-regulation techniques that balance the nervous system, relieve anxiety, increase well-being, and improve focus. During the weekend, we will look at current research on the use of herbs and nutrients in managing mood.


Tucson, AZ (May 7 – 13, 2009)

LifeForce Yoga Practitioner Training ~ Level 2

For those that have completed the Level 1 Practitioner Training. Explore the depths of LifeForce Yoga with this additional training. You will learn new techniques and expand on the ones that you already know. For more information on what the training entails, email Rose,


Watsonville, CA (May 15 – 17 or 15 – 19)

LifeForce Yoga: From Blues to Bliss

Amy will help you cultivate the compassionate inner space that allows you to embrace life’s challenges with a peaceful mind and a courageous heart. The extended program offers work with trauma, but is not intended for those in active PTSD.


Dorking, Surrey, ENGLAND (June 12 – 14)

LifeForce Yoga to Manage Your Mood

Amy brings LifeForce Yoga to the UK for the first time. For more information and to register, contact Carly,


London, ENGLAND (June 20 – 24)

LifeForce Yoga Practitioner Training ~ Level 1

Designed for Yoga teachers, mental health professionals, and serious students. Learn to apply ancient Yogic strategies to empower your students and clients to manage their moods. under teacher trainings


Rhinebeck, NY (July 3 – 5)

LifeForce Yoga to Manage Your Mood

Amy leads us through an evidence-based practice that interweaves ancient wisdom with current research in neurobiology to help us release emotional blocks and manage our mood. We will leave feeling refreshed and renewed, with ancient strategies to revitalize our practice and manage our mood. Health professionals and yoga teachers learn techniques they can use to help their clients focus, relax, and have greater access to their feelings.


Lenox, MA (July 5 – 10)

LifeForce Yoga Practitioner Training ~ Level 1

Learn to help students and clients focus, relax, and have greater access to feeling states. This program interweaves ancient yogic wisdom with current findings in neurobiology. Yoga teachers and mental-health professionals will learn strategies that can safely release chronically held physical tension and repressed emotion. You will take home tools and confidence for working with individuals suffering from depression and anxiety.


Eastham, MA (July 20 – 24)

LifeForce Yoga: Empower Your Clients to Manage Their Moods

Every day, in the process of learning Yogic techniques to help clients manage their moods and increase self-efficacy, you will be practicing tools for self-care. Discover for yourself the physiological changes occurring in the body during Yoga practice that produce the immediate “feel good” affect, and experience the shift in your own outlook as we practice simple exercises that can change your life and the lives of your clients.


Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way: Creating Happiness with Meditation, Yoga, and Ayurveda

By Nancy Lieber, Ph.D. and Sandra Moss, M.S.P.H. (Wiley, 2009)

Healing Depression the Mind-Body WayThis excellent resource rests on the multidimensional understanding of depression offered by Yoga and Ayurveda, sister sciences that are thousands of years old, as well as modern psychoneuroimmunology. The authors, a psychologist and an Ayurvedic practitioner, compare the body mind to an ecosystem that cannot be brought into homeostastis by separating physical and mental health.

The book outlines current medical evidence that supports the need of a treatment approach for depression that “activates our own self-repair mechanism.” The authors cite the recent review of the scientific literature that includes previously unpublished studies to show that the most commonly prescribed category of antidepressants is only slightly more effective than placebo treatment. They draw parallels between Ayurvedic physiological theory and the current understanding of modern physics-that the essence of our physiology is energy. They promote a program that includes releasing the constrictions and balancing the energy within and around the physiological containers we are. “When blockages in out physiology impede the smooth flow of energy, we become ill.” The suggestions in this book help the reader assess those obstructions at their source and begin to unblock them.

Ayurveda and yoga promote prevention, often diagnosing and righting imbalances that precede illness. “Symptoms,” the authors say, “which Western medicine treats, are a last stage in the disease process.”

The book provides a compendium of information for self-care based on a five thousand year-old Ayurvedic system that can now, in some areas, be biochemically validated. Cases studies are presented for each of the three “types” of emotional imbalances that contribute to depression, and are aligned with our basic constitutions (doshas). Following the readable narratives, the authors offer recommendations of specific and individualized Ayurvedic treatments, life style changes, Yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation for each of three types of depression.

It is gratifying to me personally to read how the authors explore Yoga postures (asanas) in Healing Depression the Mind Body Way, providing individualized variations in the physical, mental and spiritual focus, depending on the practitioner’s constitution and emotional state. The effects of the poses on all the systems of the body are documented, but the authors include an additional suggestion that is based on their energetic understanding of the pose. They show how self-inquiry within the pose can enhance physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual awareness. This additional focus, say the authors, “is why yoga poses are considered consciousness-based interventions and a powerful agent for change.”

In clear and demystifying language, the authors of Healing Depression the Mind Body Way have given us an essential tool for treating depression holistically. The authors meet depression with fundamental Ayurvedic wisdom, Western scientific understanding, and reader self-inquiry. The many prescriptions for self-care from the Ayurvedic tradition empower the reader to develop her own plan to achieve and sustain her optimum mental health.


Recovering My VoiceAruni Nan Futuronsky, a long-time Kripalu teacher of Self-discovery programs, including the transformational program Inner Quest, has written and published her own “inner quest,” called Recovering My Voice:: A Memoir of Chaos, Spirituality, and Hope. Out of the gender confusion of her childhood and adolescence and the fog of addictions in her young adulthood, Aruni emerges to speak her truth in this book, part spiritual journey, part love story. Recovering My Voice can be an inspiration for those who struggle with issues of identity and alienation–how community, yoga practice, and love can transform our lives, building self-acceptance and confidence through life’s challenging times.


Bindu MJ Delekta, my long time friend in Yoga, has added a chanting page to her beautiful Sacred Circle of Yoga website. Bindu’s voice is haunting and deep, and I am grateful for her spirit that shines through the chants on both the level One and Level Two LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues DVDs. You can listen to her chants, read the English translations and what they mean to her and see the lovely accompanying photographs at Bindu offers Yoga retreats, Yoga therapy sessions and classes at her studio on Martha’s Vineyard.

I met Yoga teacher and psychotherapist intern Hannah Caratti at Richard Miller’s Santa Sabina Retreat last May, and have continued with almost daily chanting of the Dawn Chant by Sri Shankaracharya that she led at the retreat. Hannah has a lovely voice, and I highly recommend her CDs, which you can purchase, along with her Gentle Yoga practice DVD from her web site at Yes, this is the same Hannah who chants “Chandi” on the homepage of our new LifeForce Yoga website!


2 Award-winning, LifeForce Yoga® to Beat the Blues,

75-minute videos (DVD) practice,

led by Amy Weintraub

· Programmable Chapters

· Original music

· Includes a Study Guide booklet

· Shot on-location in Tucson, AZ by Emmy-award winning Director of Photography, Dan Duncan.

In both Level 1 & Level 2 DVDs, Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT 500, author of the book Yoga for Depression (Broadway Books), offers a comprehensive and evidence-based sequence of breathing techniques, toning, and postures to lift and balance the mood.

Level 1LEVEL 1 – In this gentle, beginning, yet invigorating video yoga practice, Amy invites practitioners into the loving embrace of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Quan Yin, “she who hears the cries of the world.” In the sacred space Amy creates, students begin to feel and safely experience their bodies and their emotions. The practice culminates with Yoga Nidra, or deep relaxation, in which participants integrate the experience and return to full wakefulness feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

***Winner of 4 Bronze Telly Awards***

Music by William Chapman, Krishna Das, & MJ Bindu Delekta

Level 2LEVEL 2 – Amy offers modifications throughout this more challenging sequence of postures. Here, Amy invokes the energy of Shiva in his incarnation as the Fire Dancer Nataraja, guiding viewers to stay present to the sensations in their bodies, cultivating self-awareness as they burn away what is no longer serving them. The practice ends with an invitation to allow the awakened prana to guide the practitioner into her own flow of poses before transitioning into Yoga Nidra.

Music by Master Charles ~ Synchronicity & MJ Bindu Delekta

“A rare gem. This is a DVD that I will enjoy, and continue to learn from, for years to come.”-

Richard Miller, PhD – President, Center of Timeless Being; author, Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga

“No matter what your mood, Amy’s unique LifeForce Yoga® program will bring you balance and joy. I loved this practice!”-Lilias Folan, PBS Host; author, Lilias! Yoga Gets Better with Age

“This is a wonderful testament to self-acceptance, the sentiment at the core of beating the blues.”-LA Yoga


Resources by leaders in the field of yoga and mental health that Amy recommends (books, CD’s & DVD’s) are available at Carol Hendershot’s online store Expressions Yoga. Many of the resources Amy uses during her workshops can be found here, including the music.

For wholesale orders, please contact Rose Kress at


Tools for deepening your awareness from the Center of Timeless Being by Richard Miller, Ph.D.

International Association of Yoga Therapists

This organization maintains a vast database of Yoga research, a library, publishes a yearly journal, and a tri annual newsletter with current research and articles. In addition, IAYT maintains a searchable online member database, which folks can use to locate a Yoga therapist/teacher in their vicinity. (They currently do not do any verification of training and experience). If you are a health professional, a Yoga teacher or therapist, or have an interest in Yoga therapeutics, I encourage you to become a member.

Have a Healthy Mind

Dr. Richard P. Brown and Dr. Patricia L. Gerbarg offer integrative approaches for mental health and brain function that include herbs, nutrients, yoga, yogic breathing and meditation based on their research and clinical experience as psychiatrists and psycho-pharmacologists.

About the Author

Amy Weintraub

Amy Weintraub E-RYT 500, MFA, YACEP, C-IAYT, founded the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, which trains yoga and health professionals internationally, and is the author of Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists. The LifeForce Yoga protocol is used by health care providers worldwide. She is involved in ongoing research on the effects of yoga on mood.

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for our Research Newsletter


What People Say

“I utilize the LFY techniques in both a class room setting and one-on-one environment. The skills have infused my teachings with compassion, mindfulness, and awareness.” — Kat Larsen, CYT, LFYP
“I began a fantasy during the meditation exercise... almost as if I’d been there. It’s now an on-going work of fiction.” — Serian Strauss, Tanzania
“A client who returned said, "When I came before, you helped me understand and get where I wanted to go. Now you show me yoga practices I use to help myself understand and get where I want to go.” — Sherry Rubin, LCSW, BCD, LFYP, Downingtown, PA
“My patients can now have the same effects as many medications without having to actually take medication!” — Deborah Lubetkin, PSY.D, LFYP, West Caldwell, NJ
“My personal practice will change, as well as my yoga classes. I have a better understanding of yoga!” — Andrea Gattuso, RYT, Yoga Teacher, Hackettstown, N.J.
“I have found the LFYP training to be incredibly useful in giving people specific tools to use in maintaining physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance, and further opening their intuitive abilities.” — Nancy Windheart, RYT-200, LFYP, Reiki Master, Animal communication teacher, Prescott, AZ
“I feel profoundly transformed, both physically and emotionally. The connection between mind, body and spirit was clearly evident to me, but revealed to me through this workshop as an integrally vital link to overall health.” — Nadine Richardson, program manager at rehab agency, Monroe, CT
“I integrate strategies like mantra tones and pranayama, but above all I invite myself and those I teach to cultivate svadhyaya, to practice self-observation without judgment.” — Barbara Sherman, RYT 200, LFYP, Tucson, AZ
“I gained tools for working with my own depression and with my clients’ depressions.” — Robert Sgona, LCSW, RYT, psychotherapist, Yoga teacher, Camden, ME.
I absolutely love this stuff! I have been using it with my clients and I am just finding it to be so incredibly helpful. There seriously something for everything. Although I am not as skilled as I hope to be someday, even at my level of training I’m finding that I am beginning to figure out what to do. It just blows my mind! - Christine Brudnicki, MS, LPC
“I have gained an incredible opening and clearing of old obstructions. I hope to return to my life and fill this opening with things I love to do and that give me joy!” — Lisa Shine, administrative assistant, Ballston Lake, NY
“This program changed my life in a significant way. It helped me connect with the spirit which is something you can’t get from psychotherapy and medication.” – G. W., artist, Pittsburgh, PA
“I learned lots of ways to reduce the anxiety and depression of my patients and myself.” – Aviva Sinvany-Nubel, PhD, APN, CNSC, RN, psychotherapist, Bridgewater, N.J.
“Words do not do justice to all that I learned. This workshop changed my life!” — Jen Nolan, Teacher, Cortland, NY
“I have gained a softer heart, more receptive mind, and tools to enrich both personal and professional aspects of my life.” – Regina Trailweaver, LICSW, clinical social worker, Hancock, VT.
“This workshop helped me rededicate my energies and begin to work through some of the blocks I’ve felt creatively.” — Steve Mark, college professor, New Haven, CT
“I came hoping to learn to move past some of the obstacles blocking my creativity. Over the course of this weekend, I feel I’ve gained a certain measure of faith in myself and in my ability to change. I also had some realizations that I believe will be very helpful to me. I feel encouraged. Both the content and presentation of this program were so well-thought out that I can’t think of any way to improve it.” — Andrea Gollin, writer & editor, Miami, FL
“I have found the pranayama (breathing practices) especially easy to introduce in a clinical setting. Some people have benefited quickly in unexpected and transformative ways.” — Liz Brenner, LICSW, LFYP, Watertown, MA
“My life is already changed! I will use the tools I learned in my own practice and in my work. I feel safe and seen.” — Susan Andrea Weiner, MA, teacher/expressive arts facilitator, El Cerrito, CA.
“I gained perspective of who I am in the world and this will change my life significantly.” — Mary Ford, artist, Southport, CT
“This workshop has changed so much — my self-image and my life. My own heart’s desire is 100% clear. I gained tools to help myself and others to live life fully.” — Marcia Siegel, Yoga teacher, therapist, Carlsbad, CA.
“I have been reminded that I am not on this path alone, that others are sharing the journey that sometimes seems so difficult. I have also been reminded of the importance of daily practice and I will do that. The whole program has been an incredible experience for me. Thank you!” — Lorraine Plauth, retired teacher, Voorheesville, NY
“Yoga Skills for Therapists is the ideal resource for those who want to bring yoga practices into psychotherapy or healthcare. Weintraub, a leader in the field of yoga therapy, offers evidence-based, easy-to-introduce strategies for managing anxiety, improving mood, and relieving suffering. Helpful clinical insights and case examples emphasize safety, trust, and skillful adaptation to the individual, making it easy to apply the wisdom of yoga effectively in the therapeutic context.” — Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author, Yoga for Pain Relief, Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Yoga Therapy
“Giving my clients a strategy and permission to quiet their minds and rebalance the sympathetic nervous system has been very beneficial to them and in our work together.” — Sue Dilsworth, PhD, RYT 200, LFYP, Allendale, MI
Scroll to Top