By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed.
A rapidly growing teaching niche in the Yoga industry is teaching classes that uplift and elevate the spirit. Back in 2012, it was estimated that over 16 million Americans suffer from some form of depression. Many health researchers now estimate that the incidence of depression is increasing by 20% on a yearly basis in the United States alone. This roughly translates into over 20 million Americans, who are suffering with either a low-grade form of depression or major depressive disorder.
Symptoms of depression include generalized fatigue, sore muscles and joints, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, a lack of enjoyment of previously enjoyed activities, and at times, suicidal ideation. Depression is a serious mental illness that is physical in nature as well. If you are teaching a Yoga class and any of your students approach you to discuss symptoms of depression, it is recommended that you advise your student to seek appropriate health care from his or her family doctor or licensed health care professional. If depression is left untreated for extended periods of time, both physical and mental symptoms can increase to the point of being life-threatening.
Teaching mood elevating Yoga classes is a wonderful adjunct tool for addressing both the mental and physical symptoms of depression. A physically challenging practice that raises the heart rate, expunges toxins from the system and strengthens and tones the entire body, will offset some of the physical symptoms of depression, including deep-seated fatigue and muscle achiness. When postures are taught in conjunction with pranayama techniques, such as Ujjayi Pranayama, the mood elevating aspects of the practice will be greatly enhanced.
Back bending postures are some of the most effective Yoga poses for helping to expand the entire chest cavity, while releasing tension in the shoulders, throat and neck areas. These are some of the most common physical areas of the body that are negatively impacted by anxiety and depression. When we feel very anxious or angry, it is quite common for many of us to hunch up our shoulders, collapse our heart area and constrict our throat chakra in an attempt to maintain peace, which often ends up being at the expense of our own well-being.
However, by contracting these different areas in the front of the body, the flow of vital life force energy, known as Prana or Chi, is greatly impeded. When the energy is impeded in this way, a heavy sense of lethargy begins to sink into the body. Back bending postures gently stimulate the adrenal glands in the back of the body, which acts as a natural caffeine boost without the caffeine! Stimulating the adrenal glands helps to balance the entire body and increases the level of energy flowing throughout the subtle energy channels, known in Yoga as “nadis.”
Ustrasana, or Camel Pose, is one of the most profoundly effective back bending postures for alleviating depression. You can safely teach Camel Pose to many different levels of Yoga students with appropriate modifications, such as the use of a block. The benefits of Camel Pose include: lengthening the quadriceps, opening up the hip flexors, stimulating circulation in the pelvic area, greatly expanding the heart chakra area and releasing tension in the shoulders, neck and throat. It is also very effective for elevating one’s mood and promoting a sense of expanse of well-being.
Camel Pose is usually practiced during the second half of a Yoga class, after series of Sun Salutations, standing postures and balancing asanas. It is often practiced just prior to seated forward folds, seated twisting postures and finishing postures, such as Shoulder Stand, Plow and Shavasana. When you are ready to lead your students through the practice of Camel Pose, ask them to kneel on their mats with their knees slightly wider than shoulder distance apart.
If any of your Yoga students have sensitive knees and need some extra padding, have them place a folded blanket underneath their knees. If some of your students are particularly tight to the front of the torso or the quadriceps muscles, have them place a block at an appropriate height, just outside each ankle. The height of the block will depend on the level of flexibility of each particular student. When your students are ready, guide them through the practice of Camel Pose for three repetitions.
When they have completed the practice of Ustrasana, have your students rest in Extended Child’s Pose for several breaths before proceeding to the next asana. Do keep in mind that by allowing at least ten minutes for your students to rest in Corpse Pose at the end of class, you'll be further facilitating the release of tension. By dedicating at least ten minutes to the practice of Shavasana, you will allow your students to truly relax in the quiet afterglow of a comprehensive Yoga practice.
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 specializes in writing customized articles that are 100% unique. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: email@example.com.
© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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