By: Virginia Iversen M.Ed.
As many of us know from experience, a really good workout is one of the best ways to elevate a sour mood. A well-rounded, comprehensive Yoga practice can be even more effective at elevating one’s mood, because of the emphasis on releasing tension, focusing on the positive aspects of life and opening up the entire front of the body, including the heart area. A low mood is often evidenced by rounded shoulders, a lack of “get up and go” energy and tense shoulders. Additionally, painful experiences that remain lodged in the body are often accompanied by a clenched jaw, which can result in the painful condition, TMJ.
Many different Yoga postures help to release deeply held muscular tension throughout the body. Back bending Yoga postures are particularly good at elevating one’s mood, because these poses help to open up and expand the entire front of the body, including the throat chakra area. When the front of the body is expanded, the flow of life force energy, or prana, is increased. This boost of energy helps to dispel the lethargy that so often accompanies low mood states. When the heart area is open and expanded, it is also easier to release tension in the jaw, shoulders and neck areas.
If you are teaching Yoga to a diversity of students over the course of the week, do be aware that a number of your students may be struggling with low moods states, including feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, which are often emotional symptoms of depression. Please keep in mind that some of your Yoga students may be contending with unintegrated, painful life experiences, which are lodged in their bodies. Remember to move slowly and gently with these students and to not push them too quickly into back bending postures that they are not ready to practice.
Even relatively simple back bending Yoga postures can be profoundly effective at releasing the physical tension that is often held around the heart, throat, neck, and shoulder areas. Another area of the body where painful or difficult life experiences are often held is the hips. In all of these areas of the body, it is important to guide your Yoga students respectfully through the practice of these postures and to remind them to slow down or take a break and rest in Child’s Pose, if they need to do so. When necessary, you also can offer your students the option of practicing restorative, supported versions of many of the traditional back bending Yoga postures, if it is more appropriate for a particular student on a given day.
* Bow Pose or Dhanurasana
Bow Pose is a wonderfully accessible beginning back bending posture, which has an immediately expanding, energizing and mood-elevating effect. This posture is practiced from a prone position on the mat, so it is appropriate for a wide range of Yoga students. Although Bow Pose is generally regarded as a beginning to Level 1 Yoga posture, it can be quite challenging for some students if they are particularly tight throughout the front of the body. Bow Pose elongates the entire front of the torso, expands the rib cage, elongates the quadriceps, and releases tension throughout the sides of the neck, shoulders and thoracic spine.
Bow Pose is usually practiced towards the second half of a Yoga class. It is often practiced after a series of Sun Salutations, standing asanas and balancing postures, so that the students are thoroughly warmed up. When you are ready to guide your students through the practice of Dhanurasana or Bow Pose, have them flow through a final vinyasa and then come to a prone position on their Yoga mats. When they are ready, ask your students to bend their legs and grasp their ankles with their hands and to keep their palms facing the central line of the body.
With their next inhale, ask your students to exert a gentle pressure against their hands as they raise their bent legs off the mat several inches. Ask your students to be mindful to keep their knees in a straight line with their hips, while they hold the posture for five full breaths. With their next exhale, ask your Yoga students to release Bow Pose and come back to a resting, prone position on their mats. Repeat Bow Pose two more times with your class, and then guide your students into the next Yoga posture.
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 writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2016 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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