Last fall, I wrote my Top Five Practices for Releasing Stress and Anxiety. This fall, I’d like to look at how the step into fall can sometimes bring a low mood. This may be related to the fact that we’re not heading back to school or the in the thrill of starting something new. Sometimes we feel down because we’re yet as motivated as we think we should be and are low on energy to boot. And ‘shoulds‘ have an uncanny way of bringing us down rather than motivating us – negative reinforcement work totally counter to what we believe.
So how can the holistic toolkit of Yogic Wisdom help us to beat the blues naturally. Well, in many ways – Yoga can help us get moving gently, become more aware of and savour our environment and simple day-to-day experiences, uplift with aroma, boost us with breath work and help rewire our thought patters with chanting and positive self talk!
1. Bed Yoga
When we feel a bit sluggish and the winds of fall have not performed their magic, it is sometimes best to embrace where we’re at and start slow, with self care. Bed Yoga is a way to open the spine, get the body moving in a way that is gentle and nurturing.
First, bring the knees to the chest and give your self a hug. If you feel to, lift the head toward the knees to engage the core.
Gently allowing the knees to move from side to side awakens the spine and lower back to wake us up with calm.
Roll over onto your front and press into a Baby Cobra, keeping the spine long and strong. Back bends like this not only strengthen the back, but activate the Sympathetic nervous system to get you feeling brighter and more motivated naturally.
After this, I often roll over onto the back again and hug the knees to my chest. And to transition to standing, I then roll carefully toward the edge so my feet reach the ground and I’m into an L-stetch with hands on the bed, or a Rag Doll. Curling up, this is the perfect way to transition into a gentle but warming flow of Half Sun Salutations. No need to rush into the full Sun Salutation if you don’t feel to. Instead, savour the lovely, simplicity of the Half Sun Salute. And you’re off into the day! For full sequences, visit us at Akhanda Yoga Online for our Nurturing Flow on the Floor (20 mins.), Beat the Blues 30 minute sequence and Uplift Yourself (45 mins.).
2. Walking Meditation
Walking is known to be an excellent way to get your energy flowing, maintain health (the body is meant to walk and move), and shift mind states. So here, the idea is to fit this into your natural day and feel like you’re getting a bit of a meditation at the same time. Are you dropping kids, posting a letter, heading to a bus stop? Walk actively, but also with awareness and savouring the things around you. Notice your inhales and exhales while you walk. You could try to synchronize them with your steps – 2-4 steps Inhale – 2-4 steps Exhale.
Smell the natural aromas around you as you walk.
Notice the texture of the path or sidewalk, the textures of the leaves or other foliage, the brick or stone.
Feel the air or wind, fresh or balmy on your skin.
The awareness and appreciation is what adds richness and satisfaction to our regular lives. We don’t necessarily need to change what we do, but how we do it. Practice this way any time you remember. Maybe even make walking a cue for you. Walking upstairs, walking to the washroom at work. Anytime!
3. Bergamot and Rose Aromatherapy
If you are going to add anything to your routine, why not the naturally uplifting and inspiring self-care of an aromatherapy massage. Rose essential oil and Bergamot (my personal favourite) are both very uplifting. If you don’t have much time, you can add the oils to your bath or do a simple foot massage. Really short on time? Add the oils to a Jojoba mixture as for massaging and apply to the base of your nostril or in your nose. As Vishva-ji says, this gives you a portable rose garden!
4. Shining Skull Breath
They don’t call it Shining Skull Breath for nothing! Kapalabhati is known to be both detoxifying and to give you a gentle boost. This is because it help to expel the stale air at the base of your lungs and to refresh it with oxygenated air. The base of your lungs is where most of the alveoli are that take oxygen into your bloodstream. It’s also a fairly easy technique to do if you’re not using retentions. Just sit cross-legged or in a chair and place the hands on the belly. Draw the belly in and up with a forced exhale. Let the inhale be passive. You can continue a round of Kapalabhati for one or two minutes, going slowly at one pump per second or one pump per half second. Afterwards, take a few minutes to just breathe, meditate and/or integrate the benefits before standing up and going on with your day.
5. Chanting and Positive Self Talk
And last but certainly not least, Chanting has been shown to help increase Oxytocin, the well-being hormone. Chanting is a part of our Yoga repertoire that may be last to get incorporated into a person’s daily practice. However, in India it may be the first! And, it is one of the most highly recommended. Man-tra means the liberation of mind. Mantra chanting helps us get out of our negative self-talk, though loops and habitual thinking and into a clearer more being-ness mode. Chanting can be simple two-syllable mantra chanting, longer Vedic verse chanting or the super dynamic, melodious singing of Kirtan. We have some chanting of various types on the Akhanda YouTube channel and on www.akhandayogaonline.com in our Mantra section. And keep a look out for the Live Satsang and Kirtan from the Ashram this fall on FaceBook live!
[This photo is a little blast from the past – I could not resist inserting this great memory of chanting during our Akhanda YTT at Yoga Niketan Ashram with Arvind on the harmonium and Vishva-ji playing the drum with a steel cup in about 2005].
I hope you’ve enjoyed these top five tips. Feel free to comment below!