As our hemisphere turns to spring, the thermometer registered 95F in Tucson. The desert is filled with birdsong, lizards, and ocotillo blooms. And yet amidst all the beauty, all the renewed energy of emergence, depression can linger. Do you sometimes feel like a late bloomer, the ‘not yet ready for prime time’ one?
Friends have had varying reactions to the vaccine. Covid has taken its toll on some dear to me. We are on the other side now, and I am grateful. Throughout, my practice has been my anchor. Here is a pose that helps me face each day with renewed energy and trust. After practicing, I feel brighter and ready for what life brings. I hope you will too.
Camel: Pose for Depression
Research has shown that backbends are particularly good for lifting depressed mood. The full expression of this posture may be challenging if you are new to yoga, but you can practice a modified version, which I have described below. It’s important to warm-up the spine before doing a backbend practice. Make sure you have practiced the six movements of the spine and an easier backbend like sphinx pose before you try this posture. You can find these warm-up movements on the LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues Level One video. The six movements of the spine include spinal flexing, lateral movements and twisting in both directions.
Camel Pose is beneficial for depression. Camel Pose opens and expands the chest, lifts the spirits and increases lung capacity and blood circulation throughout the body. Try this posture only after you have warmed the body with gentle stretching for the muscles and flexing for the joints. You may wish to practice several exercises on your hands and knees. Camel pose is best practiced towards the end of your posture sequence, after the body is thoroughly stretched and relaxed.
Come into a kneeling position. Before you begin, roll your shoulders up and back several times, then reverse the direction, using the breath (inhaling up, exhaling down). This helps release the tension in your shoulders. Place your hands on your hips and slowly rotate your hips in one direction and then the other, noticing any tight places in your lower back. If there is tightness or soreness there, do not practice this pose, or modify it as I describe below. (As an alternative, you might give yourself a comfortable backbend by draping your back over a large exercise ball with your feet planted firmly on the floor.)
Place your hands at your sacrum with your fingers pointed down. Lift your chest and, if it is comfortable, let your head drop back. Press your pelvis forward and arch your back. This is the modified pose and you may hold right here, continuing to breathe long and deep through the nostrils.
If you wish to move into the full pose, lean back and place your right hand on your right heel, your left hand on your left heel. Keep pressing your pelvis forward and lifting your chest so that the weight of your body is not in your hands. Lifting the chest or sternum elongates the lumbar spine and reduces the curve making the posture safer and reducing the feeling of compression there. Breathe long and deep through the nostrils, inhaling for four counts and exhaling for four counts for eight breaths.
You may also practice a cooling tone with this posture. The sound “āā” soothes the heart. The low tone of “ēē” cools the throat. The tone of “mmm” soothes the busy mind, right at the central medial cortex (third eye). You can practice these tones one at a time, and you can also roll them together.
You can release the pose at any time, if the sensation grows too strong, or you can remain longer, if your body wishes a deeper experience. Listen to your body. This is a posture that stimulates the thymus gland and it is an excellent immune system builder. Camel Pose expands the chest and opens the heart.
To come out of the pose, slowly move your right hand to your lower back, then your left hand. When you feel complete, rest in child pose with your hips on your heels and your forehead on the floor. Let your arms come along side your body to relax your shoulders. You may wish to gently rock across your forehead, soothing the busy mind with the sound of “mmm.”
WEEKLY COMMUNITY MEDITATION
Lifeforce Yoga meditation for mood works. Does your mind seem too active to find stillness? Do you have trouble meditating?
You’re not alone. Drop the stress and ease into your weekend with Amy and a live LifeForce Yoga practice, on Thursday mornings.
Meditations from the LifeForce Yoga toolbox give the mind a bone. If you have a monkey mind that has trouble focusing on breath or mantra, join this class to meet rumination and move through into stillness. Join our community LIVE class with Amy! First class is Free and the Replay is Available for 48 hrs.
Join me Thursday mornings: 8-845am PDT & AZ, 9-945 MDT, 10-1045 CDT, 11-1145 EDT. The recording is available for 48 hours and the livestream link through Soul Of Yoga will be sent approximately one hour before class begins. Register Here
TEMPLE DANCER on AUDIBLE SOON
Escape into my spiritual thriller, Temple Dancer. Set in mid-20th century India and contemporary New England, you will likely recognize some locations and feelings.
The woman beside her on the train was elegant, ethereal, mysterious and determined. When Wendy opened her eyes, she was alone. The woman was gone and a dusty red book was in her place. The woman’s appeal still rang in her ears. “You must show the world how we danced with God!”
. . .
Temple Dancer, a novel of awakening and connection, spans the distance of time, space and culture through the parallel lives of Saraswati, a young Indian temple dancer in the 1940’s and Wendy, an unfulfilled artist living in contemporary New England. Two women from different eras, cultures, and countries are intimately linked through the Divine Feminine, through tragedy and resilience, and most of all through love itself. Production has been finalized, and Temple Dancer, narrated by Utah’s Daisy Fair, will be available on Audible in May to stream or download … stay tuned. More Here
ON-DEMAND LEARNING WITH AMY
Intro to Yoga for Depression and Anxiety
For all levels, including yoga and health professionals. This course by the author of Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists offers tools not taught in regular classes to support your own healing journey and those you serve.
Amy covers the yoga principles and research upon which the evidence-based LifeForce Yoga practices are based. Learn several brief yoga interventions that can be done anywhere and will offer you an energy boost, a calm and focused mind, and a balanced mood, even as you teach them to others—no mat required. 3 CE’s through IAYT.
LifeForce Yoga works. For self care and to help those you serve.