There are specific yoga practices that can help lift the mood and sustain a positive outlook. Here are two practices to balance mood.
Smiling Heart Pose
This simple restorative pose, recommended in my book Yoga for Depression, helps calm the nervous system and build energy.
Place two folded blankets, a bolster, or a firm cushion under your back, just beneath your shoulder blades. Make sure the lift is comfortable; use more or less support as feels right for your body.
- Place a rolled blanket underneath your neck so that the back of your head rests comfortably on the floor.
- Place a bolster or cushion under your knees and allow your legs to be a comfortable (usually about hip-width) distance apart.
- Allow your arms to stretch out comfortably at shoulder level, with palms facing up.
- Stay in this position for at least five minutes. On each inhale, imagine breathing into the crown of your head and repeat silently “I am.” On each exhale, imagine the breath going to your feet and repeat silently, “here.”
- To make this posture slightly more stimulating, stretch your arms over your head on the floor so they rest behind you.
Bee Breath (Brahmari)
Bee Breath has many applications for achieving and sustaining a balanced emotional and mental state. Try this practice if you (or your students or clients) suffer from anxiety, ADHD, or OCD. You will find it will cut through the tangle of distracting thoughts. You will feel calm and at ease and better able to focus. This practice slows down the exhalation and has a calming effect on the entire nervous system. In India, it is often recommended for women in labor.
- Sit in a comfortable position with the spine erect.
- Inhale through the nostrils, drawing the root of the tongue to the back of the throat.
- Slightly tilt the chin and keep the lips sealed.
- On the exhale, you will be drawing the back of your tongue to the back of your throat, as though dislodging a popcorn kernel.
- Exhale slowly through the nostrils, making a deep buzzing sound in your throat like a bee. Because the lips are closed, you will not hear the “ZZZ” sound. Instead, you will hear a “swarm” of bees in your throat.
- Start with three rounds on the exhale only.
- Practice this breath no more than 10 times.
Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT 500, is director of the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute and author of Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists. She has produced a library of evidence-based yoga and meditation CDs and DVDs for mood management.