By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
With each passing day, we are growing closer and closer to the heart of the holiday season. Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice and Christmas are just around the corner. The holidays can be a time of great festivity, fun and full of the warmth of family and friends. The holidays can also be a time of sadness for people who have lost loved ones or who are separated by circumstance from their loved one. This can be particularly true if you have lost a loved one at this time of the year or if the loss is recent.
In addition, it is not unusual for Yoga students and teachers to experience a dip in their mood during the winter season, particularly if they live in the Northern Hemisphere, where the days are quite short and the hours of sunlight are brief and fleeting. Although the holidays can be very fun and heartwarming, they can also accentuate feelings of sadness, loss and frustration for many people. There are number of ways to boost your mood naturally if you are experiencing depressive symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness and heightened anxiety.
Remaining socially engaged and physically active are two ways that help to keep your mood optimistic. One very effective way of boosting serotonin levels in the brain, which helps to ameliorate symptoms of depression, is by regularly engaging in aerobic exercise. Researchers have found that exercising in a moderately aerobic range will help to diminish symptoms of depression and improve your cardiovascular fitness. Engaging in a balanced practice of Yoga postures performed in a flowing style, breathing exercises, chanting, and meditation techniques will help to keep your spirit and heart light and positive throughout the year.
* Supported Fish Pose
Fish Pose, or Matsyasana, is a profoundly effective back bending posture that can be practiced by most Yoga students. There are a number of benefits to practicing Supported Fish Pose, some of which include expanding the chest cavity fully, releasing constriction in the throat chakra, releasing tension throughout the thoracic spine, and increasing the capacity to breathe deeply. All of these benefits help to alleviate symptoms of depression. When Fish Pose is practiced in a supported fashion, even beginning Yoga students can benefit fully from practicing this asana.
Supported Fish Pose is usually practiced towards the end of a Yoga class. It is often performed as a counter pose to Shoulderstand and Plow Pose and just prior to Shavasana. To practice Fish Pose in a supported fashion, you will need a Yoga bolster or a rolled blanket. These Yoga props will help to expand your chest by gently supporting the back of your shoulder blades. If you are using a Yoga bolster or a rolled blanket, place the prop horizontally across your Yoga mat at approximately the height of the bottom of your shoulder blades.
With your next exhale, lie gently backwards and position the prop underneath your shoulder blades. Place the palms of your hands flat on your Yoga mat next to your hips and snuggle your arms underneath the end of either the Yoga bolster or the blanket. Keep your legs together with your feet slightly flexed and pressing against the floor. If this position feels too intense for you, you may bend your knees and place your feet flat against your mat and in line with your hips.
When you are comfortable in Supported Fish Pose, with an exhale gently drop your head back as you elongate your throat. If you have any pain in your neck, please do not drop your head back but continue to look straight ahead at a drishti point just beyond the end of your Yoga mat. Continue to breathe deeply and fully as you apply gentle pressure against your Yoga mat with your elbows, legs and feet. Hold Supported Fish Pose for three to five breaths, and then release the posture, roll to your right side and gently push yourself up to Sukhasana or Easy Seat.
Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a Yoga and health-related freelance writer and academic support specialist. She is currently accepting writing assignments and may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.