5 ways yoga can help with SAD

20 April 2017 by
First published: 30 October 2016

Yoga teacher and owner of East of Eden studio Naomi Costantino shares the 5 ways yoga can help with SAD.

SAD (or seasonal affective disorder) is a common term describing a type of depression that sets in around autumn and winter. It’s said to be triggered by lack of sunlight and vitamin D, and yoga and meditation can be very useful in helping to alleviate symptoms. Here’s how to boost your mood with yoga to beat the winter blues…

Practice a dynamic form of yoga

Getting your blood circulating and breath moving is a great way to generate energy if you are feeling down. Often it’s the last thing that comes to mind when you are feeling low, but practicing a dynamic form of yoga like ashtanga yoga or vinyasa flow helps to stimulate the pituitary gland and helps to release endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.

Practice ujjayi breath

Ujjayi pranayama is the breathing technique practiced with ashtanga yoga and the more modern vinyasa flow style. The restriction of the breath in the back of the throat makes a ‘haaaaa’ sound (often likened to Darth Vader).  It encourages heat in the body, and helps you to create a rhythm to your practice that can then override the thinking mind as you move into a more meditative state.

Practice saucha

Saucha is one of Pantanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. It translates as ‘purity and cleanliness’. This is often thought to mean, purity of mind, body and speech. Autumn and winter are a time when we can often fuel our bodies with the wrong foods; hitting the fast-releasing white carbs and refined sugar for energy lifts during the day. Opting for wholegrain, whole foods and natural sugars will help you avoid the crash.

Practice Viparita Karani

This pose, which involves placing your legs up against the wall while lying on your back, is a restorative version of a shoulder stand that nourishes the nervous system, allowing you to relax.To do this pose: using a wall and a folded blanket to support your head, lie down on your back with your sitting bones pressed against the wall, extending both legs up, and allowing them to rest against the wall. You may have to shuffle your bottom up to achieve this. You are looking to achieve a 90-degree angle through the body. Once settled, close your eyes and start relaxing deeply into the pose, allow the back of the head to be heavy, allow the pelvis to sink into the floor and the leg muscles to switch off. Breathing deeply, relax here for around 15 minutes.

Practice meditation.

Sitting crossed-legged. Place your sitting bones on the front edge of a block or a firm cushion, keeping your hips elevated. From here, place your hands into Chin Mudra – the thumbs and index finger lightly touch as you energise and extend through the middle, ring and little fingers. To calm your mind if you’re feeling over-stimulated, place your hands with palms down onto your knees to help ground and settle you. If you need more energy and feel down and fatigued, have your palms facing upwards to help draw your energy up through the body. Closing your eyes, start to relax your facial muscles and release and check for tension in your jaw. Steady your breathing with even inhales and exhales. Start becoming aware of the thoughts you may be experiencing, release them and let them go. The trick to meditation is not getting rid of the thoughts but observing and not latching on to them. Become aware of a thought popping in and then come back to the breath.