5 Poses to Heal Emotional Pain and Calm the Mind
Yoga has been practiced 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 affect.
- Child’s Pose/Balasana**
It’s so easy, a child could do it! For those who are new to yoga, the child’s pose is an excellent introduction to the calming benefits of its poses. Usually, child’s pose is reserved as one of the last, tension-releasing poses of a yoga routine; but for someone who is struggling to regain physical control during a panic attack, child’s pose can bring a feeling of calm, comfort and focus. Focus on deep breathing.
- Easy Pose/Sukhasana**
Though simple, mental focus is required to maintain the posture and breathing of the pose, which makes it ideal for both preventative and coping routines for those who experience anxiety. Those who are feeling displaced or confused can mindfully use Easy Pose by envisioning the body as being rooted to the ground.
- Cat and Cow Pose/Marjariasana**
For the Cat/Cow to be effective, it is important to allow your mind to become completely absorbed in the tiny alterations taking place in your body’s energy while shifting between the two. Starting out on all fours, inhale while looking up toward the sky, opening the chest and heart. As you exhale, round your shoulders and hang your head between your shoulders. This is a revitalizing pose that will gently massage your lower back, which makes it perfect for anyone who feels fatigued or mentally clouded after a long day at the office.
- Locust Pose/Salabhasana (paired with Downward Dog/Adho Mukha Svanansana)**
The Locust Pose can be used to help assuage the effects of chronic depression and its effects on the body. The pose opens the heart, strengthens posture, revitalizes energy levels, aids in digestion and alleviates back pain. For someone who is feeling physical fatigue from emotion stress, Locust is a wonderful natural remedy.
To access the Locust Pose, lie prostrate on your mat with your hands by your side, palms up. On an exhale, lift your arms, chest, head and legs off the ground. Your palms can remain facing up, or you can clasp them together behind your back. If you have trouble lifting your arms, you can drop your palms to the mat and lift your chest, head and legs. (This is very similar to the Cobra pose.)Take care to keep your head in line with your neck. If your neck feels tense, try looking down.
The pose can be paired in a sequence with Downward Dog to heighten energy even further. To transition into Downward Dog, simply shift into table top, pressing through palms into the second pose on an exhaling breath. While inhaling, settle into Downward Dog. On the next exhale, come to the floor. Settle onto your mat on an inhaling breath, and lift into Locust during the exhale.
Each yoga routine should end in Savasana, also called the Corpse Pose, this pose requires no physical movement, but demands an intense mind-body connectedness. Lying on your back with palms facing down and eyes closed, simply focus on your breathing and your body. Now is the time to eliminate all muscle tension. Starting with the toes, focus your mind’s energy on completely relaxing each part of your body. Continue for as long as it takes for your body and mind to achieve a resounding calm. Then, begin testing your muscles as if for the first time, wiggling toes and fingers and eventually bending your knees to stand. This is especially helpful for those who awaken with panic attacks in the middle of the night or who have difficulty calming the mind at the end of the day.
8 Reasons Why Yoga Makes You Happier and Healthier
Develop Superpowers With Yoga
Yoga stretches the body, supports circulation, flushes the lymphatic system and stimulates major organs. It also alleviates common ailments and may be considered preventative medicine.
1. Reduce Pain
According to Harvard Health Publications, several studies found that a weekly yoga practice can reduce lower back pain and may be more effective for addressing pain than standard medical care or exercise therapy. Yoga improves the daily function of people struggling with curvature of the spine due to fibromyalgia and osteoporosis-related conditions.
2. Alleviate Anxiety
Anxiety has become one of the most common disorders in the US and studies have shown that yoga may be more effective, and possibly less expensive, than pharmacological treatment in alleviating symptoms, according to a 2007 study published in Evidence-Based and Complementary Alternative Medicine. The study found that a yoga session increased brain Γ-Aminobutyric (GABA) levels by 27 percent in yoga practitioners; anxiety and depression are traditionally associated with low GABA levels.
While yoga may not erase all attachments to a painful past, another study found that it can promote healing for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through peaceful embodiment and an awakened sense of calm.
3. Get Out of the Clouds
Conducting scientific studies to prove that a yoga class has a positive effect on the mood may seem unnecessary to a dedicated yogi but nonetheless, when those who struggle to get out of bed manage to muster the strength to strike a pose and breathe through the low point, the effort is proven to uplift.
Researchers at UCLA, Moscow Research Center of Narcology and University of Bologna, found that, of the 17 subjects that completed the study: 1) all experienced significant reductions in anger, depression, neurotic symptoms and low frequency heart rate variability; and 2) 11 of the 17 subjects achieved remission levels post-intervention. Not only does yoga have the power to reduce depression, but it is potentially a practice that can sustain improved mental health.
4. Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
According to a 2014 study published by the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, adults involved in a yoga practice, compared to those who did not exercise, exhibited improvements to body mass, weight, blood pressure and cholesterol, over time. The evidence is promising for cardio-metabolic health.
5. Improve Quality of Life for Cancer Survivors
Many studies explore quality of life impacts, as well as psychosocial and symptom-management benefits, of yoga as an intervention tool, usually with positive findings. For example, a 2012 study published in the journal of Evidence-Based and Complementary Alternative Medicine supported preliminary evidence of the significance of yoga for improving quality of life and symptoms in cancer survivors.
6. Improve Gene Expression
According to a 2013 study conducted by researchers at the University of Oslo and Oslo University Hospital, yoga can improve gene expression, especially in terms of immune function. Experimental sessions of gentle yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation had a significantly greater effect on gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of subjects, compared with the control group protocol of walking in nature and listening to relaxing music.
Nature explains that, “genes encode proteins and proteins dictate cell function.” Gene expression refers to the ability of DNA to replicate, express and repair itself. Improved gene expression may be connected to improved immune function, cellular integrity and adaptability, in the evolutionary sense.
7. Support Smoking Cessation
Yoga may squash cravings in general but it has also been proven to reduce perceived stress and negative affects associated with smoking cessation, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health.
8. It’s Never Too Late
It is never too late to get started or resume your yoga practice. Patanjali’s first Yoga Sutra states “Now begins the practice of yoga.” Remove the limitations that you identify with from the past, as well as your expectations for the future, and just get on your mat.