More than $11 billion is spent each year on antidepressants in the United States. That startling statistic provides some insight into the number of people in America who live with depression ranging from clinical depression to feeling down.

Many more people experience depression but avoid medication because of the side effects or would rather use a natural approach to healing. Yoga is one tool in targeting this condition that affects so many and can reduce quality of life.

1) Heart Openers for Depression

Poses such as Cobra, Upward Facing Dog or Back Bends that open the heart and front body can be especially challenging for people experiencing depression or anxiety. The bodys natural defense mechanism, especially for people who are depressed, is to hunch forward to protect the heart. In fact, this only serves to keep people more guarded.

Heart openers, on the other hand, open us up to possibility and joy. It may sound clich, but they literally put us in a position to accept love and happiness.

Cobra can be a wonderful pose to start down the road to opening your heart.

The key in the pose is to focus on drawing your heart through your bent arms with each and every exhale.

When you want to go deeper into the posture, Upward Facing Dog is easily accessible. As in Cobra, draw your heart up and forward toward the front of the room. If its comfortable for your neck, you can gaze up at the ceiling to go deeper into the pose.

2) Childs Pose for Depression

This is so simple yet so effective. Childs Pose, or Balasana, is among the most effective ways to feel grounded and centered. The posture allows you to turn your thoughts to your breath and block out external stimulus. Plain and simple, in childs pose you can just be.

An additional benefit to the pose is that it opens the back and hips, two areas where many people carry their emotions, and gets stuck energy flowing again.

3) Inversions for Depression

Inversions such as Supported Headstand (Shirshasana) helps combat depression by flooding the brain with fresh blood and oxygen. Nourishing the brain and increasing blood flow can reduce anxiety.

This pose also requires intense concentration which helps to clear the mind of outside stressors that can add to depression.

4) Folds for Depression

B.K.S. Iyengar once said this in reference to standing forward fold: Any depression felt in the mind is removed if one holds the pose for two minutes or more.

Forward folds like Uttanasana take the benefits of inversions and childs pose and add them together making the pose a powerful tool to ease depression.

When folded in half with your focus turned inward, you are better able to focus on your breath and block out distractions. Folds also open the hips, legs and back to get energy flowing throughout the body. On top of that, by putting the head below the heart, the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain increases.

5) Warrrior for Depression

Warrior is a position of strength. By holding the pose, the practitioner creates an identity of power and confidence, pushing aside feelings of anxiety and depression. The longer you hold it and the more you focus on your breath, the greater the feeling of control.

By focusing on drawing your shoulder blades down your back, Warrior also helps to open the heart, adding to the benefits of the posture.

While yoga may not take the place of medication in extreme cases, studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals support the benefits of yoga in helping improve the condition. And, best of all, doing yoga can only be beneficial for your body and spirit.