TALES FROM MY YOGA MAT – 3 YOGA POSES THAT COMBAT DEPRESSION

Depression

I’ve got lots of exciting new sections popping up on my blog. You may have noticed on Monday just gone, that I now have a new section called “Meatfree Monday’s” . I will be providing you with some inspiration to assist you in going meat free weekly, these ain’t going to be boring recipes either!

In the past, I’ve had no real structure with my posts (they were weekly, sometimes twice a week but on different days) – well that’s all about to change! I’ll be blogging twice weekly; on Monday’s and Wednesday’s so you’ll be seeing more of me! I’ve also got a new section called “Tales from my yoga mat” as titled above which you’ll see on Wednesday’s weekly or biweekly (if I happen to be blogging about something a little different that week).

You might have noticed a post I did last week, where I got really raw and honest talking about my battles with depression and how I pull myself from the darkness back out into the light. I’ve had an overwhelming response from this post; it’s made me so aware of just how many of us are battling with this disease but feel so alone – we feel we have no one to confide in.  Share what you’re going through with the people you love and trust. Reach out and ask for the help and support you need.

What I’ve decided to focus on today are some yoga poses that are very powerful and really assist in lifting you from sadness and depression. A new study from the University of California, Los Angeles, finds that practicing yoga each day can improve cognitive functioning and lower levels of depression.

*Remember to always honor your body by listening to it and practicing in a manner that is the safest and most comfortable for you.*

I’m sharing some yoga poses which have really helped me a lot through times of deep sadness. You can do these poses anytime you feel a lingering sadness in your body, in your mind and you just want to sort of move forward getting past sadness and move on with the rest of your day.

Yoga asana can be a powerful practice for depression or anxiety, and a key component of this is the breath.

The breathing used in yoga, such as Ujjayi (which I’ll be speaking and sharing about in a separate blog post soon), calms our stress response system and contributes to a state of calmness. The result of this breath is a mind-body connection that can have amazing effects.

There are so many yoga poses that individually can be very helpful for depression, but a combined, consistent yoga practice, including meditation, can and will reconnect you with your true essence and your natural wholeness. In that space of “being,” there is a release of attachment to our worries, anxieties, problems, fears, or situations.

When I practice yoga it helps me to see and feel real and whole again; I start to experience continuous shifts in my mental patterns, emotions, and internal state of being. I’m not sure where I’d honestly be without it!

Here are three poses that have helped me with depression:

 

Cat-Cow (Marjariasana)

Are two poses that flow beautifully together. I love cat/cow for so many reasons. It’s a really wonderful way to warm up the spine and lower back (which I use in most of my classes). Also, it’s a great way to connect to your body and breath. The repeated repetitions create a gentle massaging action, which increases the circulation to the discs between the vertebrae. Cat-Cow also improves the vital information flow through the spinal cord, creating an overall energizing effect. It’s also terrific for any stress you may be experiencing in your back.

Step by step instructions:

  1. Come to all fours with your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips.
  2. Spread your fingers and press evenly into the knuckles of each finger.
  3. On an inhale, lift your head and tailbone so your spine arches slightly toward the floor. Drop the belly; find the valley between your shoulder blades and take the gaze towards the sky (if the neck feels okay).
  4. Let the movement in the spine start from the tailbone, so that that neck is the last part to move.
  5. On an exhale start to tuck your tailbone under, curl your back upward, and let your head gently hang toward the floor. The belly draws in here.
  6. Repeat the Cat – Cow stretch on each inhale and exhale, matching the movement to your own breath.
  7. Continue for 5-10 breaths moving smoothly between the two positions, moving the whole spine. After your final exhale, come back to a neutral spine.

**If you have any health issues, particularly disc problems, as always, consult with your doctor before starting this, or any other exercise routine. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start slowly with a few repetitions,building up.**

Standing forward bend (Uttanasana)

In Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar says about Uttanasana, “Any depression felt in the mind is removed if one holds the pose for two minutes or more.”

When this pose is done properly and consistently, the most noticeable benefits of standing forward bend include: calm the brain, relieve stress, great for mild depression, stretch the hamstrings, calves, and hips, strengthen the thighs and knees, improve digestion and reduce anxiety

 

Step by step instructions:

  1. Stand in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), place your hands on your hips and inhale.
  2. As you exhale, soften your knees and fold slowly forward from your hips. Counterbalance your body weight by moving your tailbone and hips back slightly as the body leans forward.
  3. Keep your knees nice and soft so your sit bones point up towards the ceiling.
  4. Bring your hands to rest on the ground beside your feet or hold onto opposite elbow with each hand.
  5. Start to draw your belly towards your thighs (this may mean bending the knees a little or a lot).
  6. If the hamstrings feel at ease here, slowly extend your knees more while pushing your sit bones up to the ceiling and start to straighten your legs more. (once you feel like your chest is separating from your legs, you’ve gone a little too far.)
  7. Let your head gently hang, soften the muscles on your face and allow your jaw to release.
  8. Stay here for a couple of long slow deep breaths (from 30 seconds to 1 min) or as long as it feels comfortable for you.
  9. To exit, contract your abdominal and core muscles.
  10. As you inhale, place your hands on your hips, soften your knees, and reach your chest far forward. Rise up from your hips keeping your back nice and long. Keep the length between your pubis and chest bone. Continue to lengthen your torso as you come up to standing.

**Avoid the standing forward bend if you have: lower back problems or your have back injury, however you can perform this pose with knees bent and hands supporting on the thighs, if you have recently had knee surgery or hamstring surgery, high blood pressure and eye or inner ear infection.**

Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Bridge pose is a back-bend that strengthens the legs, opens the chest, and stimulates the abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid. This pose can have a very nourishing restorative version (Supported bridge) by placing a block under the sacrum. Mentally bridge pose is known to energize your mind, relieve mild depression and anxiety and helps to reduce stress.

 

Step by step instructions:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip width apart with your heels directly under your knees.
  2. Ensure your knees and toes are pointing forward.
  3. Place your arms on the floor along the sides of your body, with your palms facing down.
  4. Exhale as you lengthen your spine and gently press your lower back into the floor.
  5. Inhale as you press your feet into the floor and lift your pelvis off the floor as high as it feels comfortable. Your weight should be supported equally and evenly between your shoulders and feet.
  6. Interlace the fingers behind your back and straighten the arms, pressing them down into the mat.
  7. Roll one shoulder under and then the other.
  8. Lift the hips higher.
  9. Draw the chin a little away from the chest to keep you neck nice and long.
  10. Make sure the feet stay parallel. (hold the pose from 3-5 breadths or as long as it feels comfortable)
  11. Release the hands and slowly bring the upper, middle, and then lower back down.
  12. Rest by taking the feet hip width distance and allow the knees to knock together (this helps to release your back).
  13. Repeat 2-3 more times or for as long as it feels comfortable for you.

**Neck injury: avoid this pose unless you are practicing under the supervision of an experienced teacher.**

So there you have it, three yoga poses that I’ve found to really help me during times of darkness and deep sadness. I share them in hope that they can bring you as much benefit as they’ve given me.

Be kind, be courageous, be yourself.

 

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