Pill Vs. Holistic Part 2 – A Doctor/Yogi’s Opinion

Pills can help, but it takes more than a pill to beat depression.

This article is based on, and quotes taken from, a Yoga Journal article, “Yoga for Depression” written by doctor and yoga instructor, Timothy McCall, MD.

“While many people in the yoga world have a negative view of antidepressant medication, I believe that there are times when these medications are necessary and even lifesaving.”

Pills + Posi Routine

Those with severe depression seem to do best to stay on a medication that works with them + establishing positive behaviors and routines.

Those with mild to moderate depression may be given short-term antidepressants so they feel good enough to practice healthy behaviors and routines – exercise, diet, and yoga – that can be maintained when their prescription ends to keep them out of depression.

“Still, many people with mild to moderate depression may be able to avoid drug therapy entirely.”

Instead of/with drug therapy:

  • Yoga & Exercise
  • Psychotherapy
  • Increased omega-3 fatty acids

All these methods can be used instead of drug therapy, or combined with drug therapy. ***St.-John’s-wort is also helpful, but can’t be combined with prescription antidepressants.

Why your doctor gives you pills

Doctors focus on changing the biochemistry of the brain with drugs to “raise the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin.”

“But there are many other ways—including aerobic exercise and practicing yoga—to raise the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters linked to depression.”

If alternative methods aren’t enough, don’t feel guilty trying pills.

It’s such an old-school view to not take pills for psychological problems.
I’ve heard so many people say “just think you’re happy, and you’ll be happy!”
Those people give me the right to say, “just think you don’t have diabetes, and it’ll go away!”

It’s an ignorant view on the brain because firstly, the brain is a body part too, and second, every problem of your whole being should be addressed the same.  Timothy McCall quotes Iyengar yoga instructor Patricia Walden, author of  a booklet on yoga for depression, regarding drug therapy, “Thank God, we’ve got this option.”




The study of chemical processes within and relating to living organisms, such as abnormalities of the brain.


Chemical messengers that carry, boost, and modulate signals between neurons and other cells in the body.
There are 6 types, but the ones that affect depression are monoamines: epinephrine, norepinephrine, histamine, dopamine and serotonin.


The brain chemical in charge of mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behavior.

***Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are all a class of antidepressants that raise serotonin levels called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

timothy mccall

“Dr. Timothy McCall is a board-certified internist, Yoga Journal’s Medical Editor, and the author of Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing.”

Full article here.

His site: Yoga as Medicine

His bio is here.


patricia walden

Patricia Walden is an Iyengar yoga instructor.

“She has co-authored three books, including The Women’s Book of Yoga and Health, and a booklet on yoga for depression (“Take an Action, No Matter How Small”).”

Her bio is here.

Her site is here.


Other Links:

Pills Vs. Holistic Part 1: A Doctor’s Opinion

Serotonin and Depression: 9 Questions Answered (Web MD)

Everything on Serotonin (Medical News Today)

What is a Neurotransmitter?

What’s a neuron and how does it affect psychological disorders?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email