“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in” – B.K.S Lyengar
I’m the type of person who thinks about doing something, can picture it coming together in my mind, but when it comes to doing it I never actually follow through with the plan.
When I took a year off from school before starting grad school I made it one of my goals to start branching out more. Whether it be doing new activities or getting back into old ones, anything to keep me busy and help me feel fulfilled in my year off.
So I made a list of goals I want to accomplish in the next year and a half. (I’m someone who likes to keep lists.) So, I made this list and was ready to hop on the road to progression… until I realized I wasn’t.
Regardless of my idea to keep myself I realized I was still experiencing some setback. For a while I tried to ignore it because I thought it was my mind and anxiety following its normal route to negative thoughts. I soon realized it wasn’t just going to so away and I was actually deeply depressed. One day I could be feeling so happy, everything felt right, the sun would be shining, and me with a smile on my face. Then the day after I could lie in bed all day in complete darkness, crying over the smallest inconvenience life tossed my way that day.
I’ve dealt with mental health for a little while from my anxiety, but I’ve never had to go through something quite like this before. To be honest it can feel scary and overwhelming.
Finally I decided to ask myself this question, “Do I continue to let this completely take over my life?” The answer was no. I started finding ways to get my mind off my negative thoughts to help combat my depression in a healthy way.
One thing I wanted to focus on was reconnecting with both my mind and body. I wanted to get into a state where I could feel both calm and in control, something mental health doesn’t always allow you to do. During my senior year of college I impulsively signed up for a yoga class.
It turned out to be very beneficial to me and ended up being just what I needed to help get me through my final semester. When having assignments due left and right my stress was becoming overwhelming. Taking the yoga class and learning certain moves helped me relieve my stress and gave me a few methods to use to help myself achieve relaxation.
Here are my 5 favorite yoga poses to help ease both your mind and body and help you feel in control of your mental health.
1. Nadi Shodhana in Padmasana (Seated Lotus Pose)
Nadi Shodhana (Alternate nostril breathing) is a way to control your breathing and ensure that oxygen-rich blood gets to your brain.
Sit in Padmasana, lotus, or any seated cross-legged position. Make sure your spine is tall. Start with your left hand facing up on your lap. Take your right hand and bring the index and middle fingers in between your eyebrows to rest there as a shelf. You will alternately close your right nostril with your thumb and your left nostril with the inside of your ring finger. At times you will hold both nostrils.
Begin by inhaling deeply through both nostrils and exhaling deeply through both. Then, hold the right nostril and inhale through the left only and count to two. Hold both nostrils closed and count to six. Let go of the right nostril only and count to four. Next, inhale through the right for two seconds, hold both for six seconds and exhale through the left for four seconds. Repeat the whole process for about two minutes.
2. Viparita Karani (Legs Up on the Wall Pose)
Start seated sideways to the wall with your knees bent. One hip should be touching the wall. Swing your legs vertically up onto the wall as you lie down on the floor. Place your rolled-up towel or bolster underneath your hips at the area of the sacrum. Allow your legs to extend completely upward with your toes facing the ceiling. Bring your arms out to the sides resting slightly below your shoulders. You can remain in this pose anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes.
3. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your legs should be spread about hip-width apart. Make sure your feet are parallel and your arms are alongside you with the palms facing the floor. Press down on your palms, raise the pelvis upward, and squeeze your bottom. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths. You can support your bridge pose with a yoga block. Place the block underneath the sacrum just above the tailbone. Allow your lower back to rest on the block.
This inverted posture will bring oxygen-rich blood to your brain, which has a calming effect.
4. Balasana (Child’s Pose)
This one is my personal favorite. Start by sitting on your heels. Bend forward with your arms outstretched and bring your torso to the mat. If your knees are bothersome, open them wide like a letter “V.” You can also wrap your arms alongside of you with the palms facing up. If this pose still isn’t comfortable, place a pillow underneath your torso to bring the floor closer to you. Child’s pose is a gentle inversion.
5. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Begin this pose in a seated position. Place a bolster or rolled up blanket behind your tailbone. Gently lie down on the blanket or bolster, and place your feet together with your knees open in a butterfly pose. If you need knee support, place your yoga blocks or pillows under each knee. Your arms can either be placed on your stomach or outstretched to the sides, allowing the heart and chest to be open.
Take some time out of your day to try out some of these poses. You will start to feel the connection between your body and mind start to develop in no time. Keeping up with healthy practices can make all the difference when trying to achieve a peaceful state.
Written by: Kirstie Devine
Edited by: Alexandra Haggerty