By Saraswati Vasudevan
Down in the dumps? Try yoga, suggests Saraswati Vasudevan
Yesterday I had a dream, and in my dream I was happy and smiling”. This was the first time in many years that my friend was feeling a streak of happiness! Illness and depression had made it difficult for him to experience joy, but the practice of yoga had lifted the cloud a bit.
One of the first changes that a regular yoga practice brings is a change in our mental environment. “I don’t have so many negative thoughts now”, “I can feel the heaviness coming but can quickly bounce back with some active practice”. Active asana practice with regulated breathing helps you open up the body and mind to experience freedom and lightness. Initially, through the teacher’s guidance, but subsequently through your own efforts, you start investing more of yourself into the practice.
A few guidelines to follow.
Initially keep the practice short, not more than 20 minutes. Keep asana movements dynamic and simple; include variations to sustain interest.
During movements, chanting on exhalation helps engage the mind and enables better breathing. Sounds such as Ha or Ra activate the diaphragm and abdomen and cause them to empty out the heavy energy in the lower abdomen. The vibrations of sound in the throat is uplifting, and activates the udanavayu. Chanting has a way of drowning the chatter in the mind, thereby helping you dwell in the present.
Practise postures where the heart centre (centre of the chest) is free to open and expand.
Holding the breath for 3-8 seconds progressively after inhalation in opening postures like back arches can activate the mind and body. This is called a Brhmana practice.
Within a practice routine, vary from standing to lying, seated to kneeling, actively moving from one position to the next in a harmonious manner.
Avoid kapal bhati or fast and forceful breathing techniques because they could churn up deep-seated emotions leading to a downward spiral.
Avoid extended stay in a posture, or seated meditation with eyes closed as that gives the mind time to slide back to gloomy thoughts.
Virabhadrasana – the warrior pose
Stand with feet together, arms by the sides of the body. Take a big stride forward turning the back foot out at an angle. On inhalation, raise both arms from the front simultaneously bending the front knee to bring thighs almost parallel to the floor, bring palms together, keep head straight, gazing at the horizon. On exhalation lower arms straightening the front leg, repeat a few times and stay in this posture for a few breaths (to be done on both sides).
You can hold your breath for upto 8 seconds after each inhalation to intensify the effect of the posture.
Virabhadrasana helps to open the chest, counter a stooping back profile, improve inhalation, uplift the mind, and energise the body.
About the author : Saraswathi Vasudevan is a yoga therapist trainer in the tradition of Sri T Krishnamacharya. She specialises in adapting yoga to the individual. (www.yogavahini.com).
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