By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
If you live in the northern hemisphere, at this point in the year you may be experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder or low-grade depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder is precipitated by the lack of sunlight during the dark winter months, particularly in areas that receive little sunshine during most of the winter. As the days become shorter and the hours of sunlight drop to a bare minimum, you may be experiencing a similar drop in your own mood. This is quite understandable because the amount of sunshine that you receive each day directly impacts the level of serotonin in your brain.
Serotonin is one of the “feel good” neurotransmitters that keep your mood bright and optimistic. If you are particularly sensitive to the lack of sunlight during this time of year, you may be experiencing a clinically significant amount of depressive symptoms or a low-grade form of malaise, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. There are different types of depression. One of the most common types of depression is marked by a pervasive sense of lethargy, hopelessness and a generally pessimistic outlook on life.
This lack of energy and lethargy is often promulgated by a dysregulation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When the sympathetic nervous system is down regulated in conditions such as depression, even small daily tasks can feel monumental. By practicing vigorous Yoga poses and energizing breathing exercises regularly, a Yoga student can balance and regulate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When the nervous systems are balanced, your level of energy and sense of optimism will increase dramatically, even with the lack of sunshine during the wintertime.
Breath of Fire is it Yogic breathing practice that can profoundly energize both your body and mind. This pranayama practice also has the ability to regulate the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous systems. Additionally, with steady effort and practice on a daily basis, this Yogic breathing exercise can help to balance the entire endocrine system. When the endocrine system is balanced and healthy, you are much less likely to be dramatically affected by the lack of light during the darkness of the winter months.
* Breath of Fire
When you're ready to practice Breath of Fire, come to an easy sitting position on your Yoga mat. If your hips are tight today, place a folded blanket underneath you for support and comfort. Place your hands palms down on your knees as you sit in Easy Seat on your Yoga mat. The practice of Breath of Fire invigorates you by increasing the circulation of fresh oxygen and vital nutrients throughout your entire body and mind. This invigorating Yogic breathing exercise will fill you with a fresh vigor for life.
When you are ready, begin the practice of Breath of Fire by inhaling smoothly and exhaling with moderate force, as you pull your belly button in toward your spine. As you inhale, gently push down on your knees with your hands, in order to expand your heart and allow your diaphragm to expand more fully. You may wish to focus on your solar plexus as you do this Yoga breathing practice. Visualize a cheerful yellow light pulsating in your solar plexus and filling you with the warmth of the sun’s rays with each inhalation and exhalation.
If you are new to the Yogic breathing practice of Breath of Fire, begin with three rounds of 10 breaths. When you are more experienced with this pranayama exercise, you may wish to increase your practice to three rounds of 30 breaths. If you have high blood pressure or heart problems, please check with your doctor before practicing Breath of Fire. When you have completed your practice of Breath of Fire, pause for a moment or two to feel the scintillating pulsation of energy throughout your entire body and mind before continuing on with the rest of your Yoga practice or the rest of your day.
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.