Recently my students have been asking whether there were any yoga poses to help them boost their mood naturally. There are definitely some poses that are more uplifting energetically and I share some movements below that I hope many people will find easy to do. There are also some breathing practices that can help, so I’ve included a couple of those too. Finally I share a practice based on yoga philosophy that I’ve found helpful in my own battle with depression over the years.
No magic cures
There are of course no magic cures for depression, in the yoga world or elsewhere. The practices I share below can help to gently boost your mood and energy, but I would encourage you to seek professional help if you have a low mood that’s not shifting. I’ve spoken to many doctors about my low mood over the years and they’ve been unfailingly sympathetic. They want to help, and sometimes just talking out loud about how you feel is incredibly helpful.
There are plenty of articles promising that certain yoga poses will help to lift a low mood, but it may not be as simple as that. When I see people one to one for yoga therapy, I find out what else is going on for them. For example I’d want to know whether there is also low energy or high anxiety alongside the low mood. This will change what I suggest and might mean that some of the following practices just don’t work for you.
That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. In many ways yoga is about learning what works for you, your body and mind. You’re the expert on yourself, so try these and notice how you respond. If it doesn’t work, try something else! I can suggest some general ideas in an article like this but it’s not a prescription (and of course no subsitute for consulting with a qualified mental health practitioner).
Yoga poses to lift your mood
I love to start my online classes with this simple movement and if you’re been slumped in a chair feeling miserable, it’s a lovely gentle way to change your perspective.
#1: Simply raise your arms to the sides of your body, all the way overhead if you can, breathing in as you do so. Keeping your neck long, lift the gaze at the same time so you’re looking up at your hands. As you breathe out, lower your arms to the sides and lower your gaze until you’re looking straight ahead again. Simple but effective.
This next sequence is based on the 2-foot support pose (dwi-pada pitham) and I’m using it a lot in my classes at the moment. It’s also known as bridge pose and, for anyone not familiar with it I share some photos below from one of my online classes.
#2: Start lying on your back with the knees bent, feet hip-width apart and arms alongside the body. As you breathe in you lift your hips and as you exhale you lower them back down. If you’re comfortable with that you can add a breath and raise your arms overhead using this sequence – inhale raise hips, exhale lift arms halfway so fingers are pointing at the ceiling, inhale take arms all the way over head, exhale lower arms and hips. Repeat 5 or 6 times. Delicious!
#3: Sit in a comfortable position, on a chair is completely fine, and rest your hands on your thighs. Using the power of your imagination, you’re going to move the breath up and down a central channel in your body, from sit bones to the top of your head and back down again.
As you breath in, imagine your breath travelling up the centre of your body, up to and beyond the crown of your head. As you breath out, imagine it travelling down the centre of the body to the sit bones, and down into the earth. Feeling connected to the earth below at the end of the exhale and all that’s above at the end of the inhale. Also, try applying some light but firm pressure through the palms of the hands onto the knees, to remain connected to your physical body.
#4: I do a balanced breathing exercise every morning and find it really helpful for soothing my mood. I find it calms anxiety AND helps lift a low mood. Start with just a couple of minutes to a 6:6 rhythm, either simply sat down or in tandem with any of the above. I use the soundbrenner app to literally time my breath for a 6 second inhale and a 6 second exhale. (Set it to 60 beats per minute and a 6/8 time.)
Cultivating santosa or contentment
#5: Our brains have some hardcore systems in place to notice danger and potential danger and bring it to our attention. This is great for staying alive but can be unhelpful when your mood needs a boost. Yoga philosophy gives us guidelines for living our life called the niyama, one of these is santosa or contentment. A lovely practice follows (I’ve adapted it from Embodying the Yoga Sutra: Support, Direction, Space, written by my teachers Dave Charlton and Ranju Roy).
Sit comfortably and allow the eyes to close, letting the breath settle and slow. Then simply allow a person (or any living thing!) to enter your mind, and thank them. Be specific if you can, about what you are grateful for. Ranju and Dave suggest doing this for around 12 breaths but stop whenever you like.
I hope these 5 easy yoga practices help you boost your mood next time you need a lift!
Join me online
For a regular hour of yoga that de-stresses and calms you, and gives you tools for improving your mental health off the mat, why not sign up to my online yoga classes? You’ll get an hour of movement that is accessible for all bodies plus breathing exercises and a relaxation session.
Every month I release a special bonus for my online students – this month it is a recorded short sequence for lifting your mood!
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