Yoga has been practised for thousands of years to strengthen and unite the mind, body and soul. When the mind and soul become out of balance, the body is also affected. In turn, physical wellness can affect and strengthen a person’s mental wellness.
The two are so interconnected that many doctors and therapists suggest exercise as a partial regimen for people suffering from anxiety and depression. However, those who are feeling depressed often find it difficult to begin an exercise routine as an unbalanced body and mind can feel listless and lack energy.
For those who are embarking on a journey of emotional or spiritual healing, yoga offers poses that can focus and calm your mind. These poses can be used as in-the-moment coping strategies to relieve anxiety or can be incorporated into existing routines for a maximum effect.
3. Bend the blues
If you thought “heartache” and “heavy-hearted” were just evocative turns of phrase, think again. In fact, research shows that sudden emotional stress can release hormones that prevent the heart from pumping normally. Even watching a sad movie can reduce arterial blood flow. And if emotions affect the body so acutely, then it seems logical that the body could, in turn, influence our emotions.
“The heart is a vulnerable space,” says Kimberly Wilson, author of Hip, Tranquil Chick: A Guide to Life On and Off the Yoga Mat. “Backbends help expand the heart centre and help you exude confidence and grace.” In other words, backbends ease breathing, improve posture, and reduce stress by releasing tension held in the tissues of the whole chest and lung region of the body. So the next time you need to kick the bad-day blues, try this sequence of heart-opening backbends from Wilson’s book.
2. Child’s Pose
What it does: Relieves stress and fatigue as it stretches the lower back and hips
- Sit on your heels with your big toes touching and hands resting on your thighs.
- Lower your belly and chest to rest between your knees, bringing your forehead to the floor.
- Relax your arms back beside your shins, palms facing up.
- Soften your breath by taking 5 to 10 long, deep inhalations and exhalations.
1. Cobra Pose, modified
What it does: Boosts energy and mood as it strengthens the back of the body
- Slowly slide forward from Child’s Pose to lie facedown.
- Press your toes and forehead gently into the floor. Rest your palms lightly on the floor on either side of your chest with fingertips pointing forward and elbows bent and hugging in toward your ribcage.
- Inhale and lift your chest from the heart, pressing only very lightly into your palms and mostly using your back strength to hold your shoulders and chest up.
- Soften your shoulders. Then lift your hands off the floor completely, broadening across your collarbones and reaching your heart up. Take a couple of deep, slow breaths here.
- Then as you exhale, place your palms back down and gently lower your chest to the floor.