Can Kriya Yoga Help with Depression?


Hello, for the past 6 months my life has been completely derailed by depression. I understand you are not a doctor, but I believe suffering is a reason many turn towards spirituality. I was curious if you'd had experience with anyone who has been relieved of their depression by investing their life in kriya yoga. I want desperately to turn my life around.

Thank you.

—Ryan, United States


Dear Ryan,

Yours is an excellent question and comes up from time to time. Let me start with a caveat that is important. This in turns starts with a “story.”

From time to time, students of meditation come with precisely the same hope and question that you are presenting. In a meditation training setting, however, the question doesn’t necessarily always get asked (whether aloud or privately).

What is sometimes being contemplated or hoped for is to cease taking one’s medications in favor of the results and benefits of meditation.

So here’s where the concern arises: I have seen too often that a person who unilaterally stops taking his “meds” while learning or practicing meditation (which includes kriya yoga), ends up with an episode or regresses. In such a case the meditation practice ceases and with no medication to stabilize the person’s mental outlook, the result is most unfortunate. (I have never seen the result be tragic, but of course it could be.)

Therefore, I must start by saying that one must not embark upon the practice of meditation with the expectation of stopping one’s medications. Yes, ok, to go back to your question, of course meditation can help with improving one’s mental outlook, stability, calmness, reduced anxiety and so on. All of this has been clinically proven.

But just as the medications which are prescribed vary widely as to whether and how they help a person, and how much should be taken, so too one cannot say in advance or with any certainty what the effects of meditation will be on a person’s struggle with clinical depression.

Therefore, I say, yes, be hopeful that kriya yoga will improve your life. That is a reasonable general expectation. For all the reasons that are given for why meditation (and kriya yoga) will help one on every level (body, mind, and soul), meditation should improve the quality of life.

But can one say when, to what degree, and whether one can expect anything specific, or to stop taking medications? No, absolutely not.

In fact, in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishan counsels us that even with respect to the benefits of meditation and the spiritual life, one must exercise nonattachment and be sufficiently mindful not to burden the spiritual path with expectations, lest we appear to God and our higher Self as a kind of merchant, trading one thing for another.

We meditate to please God, to learn to love God, to live more simply, more authentically, and in harmony with grace, truth, and the Divine Will. That, and that alone and not the gifts of health and well-being must be our motivation.

Yes, that’s not easy and the path follows a razor’s edge between affirmation and contentment. But an attitude of faith, hope, and love for God and charity for all is the only true spiritual life one can lead.

In God all of our troubles will cease but we must seek Him for His love, nothing else!

Nayaswami Hriman