Never fear, Summer is here.....yoga to combat seasonal affective disorder and depression!
I hold my hands up, my mood is seriously affected by the weather. There is no better feeling than waking up opening the curtains to feel the sun's rays streaming into the room. Birds singing away and out come this seasons latest sandals/birkenstocks/flip flops, chuck on a maxi and I am outta here....with child in tow of course!! But do you remember Winter and its bitter wind, millions of layers and short, dark days? It's certainly more challenging to be positive when its pouring with rain and plain miserable. There is an answer though to balance out the seasonal depression, you got it, YOGA! Did you see that one coming from a mile off? It really is true though. I have my days where I really can't imagine finding the energy to do my own personal practice but I try so hard to make the time and get on my mat, unless a glass of wine has been forced down my throat!! Then I do party tricks hahaha!!!
What is depression? That word is used so lightly these days when it is actually a very severe disorder affecting millions of people. Of course, I have moments where I am down more than others but I am not one to wallow. I don't have time to wallow because children don't understand why I would need to sit down and not dance to Frozen for the millionth time. Children need feeding, reading to, entertaining and nappy changing, I could go on but honestly, my little monkey has been my strength in times of trouble. Whenever I am feeling sorry for myself, I have been so grateful to her for keeping me busy and distracted. Some people may not have that and often people feel lonely and isolated. This is the perfect time to reach out to someone you love, know likes to chat or maybe you haven't spoken to in a while. They might just appreciate the call!
We are so affected by the seasons. I notice that even when I'm having a bad day just feeling the sun on my face seems to melt the mood away. Then when the clouds come and the rain pours I just want to snuggle in bed, hide under the duvet and hibernate.
Sunlight can affect some of the brain's chemicals and hormones. However, it's not clear what this effect is. One theory is that light stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls mood, appetite and sleep. These things can affect how you feel.
In people with SAD, a lack of sunlight and a problem with certain brain chemicals stops the hypothalamus working properly. The lack of light is thought to affect the:
- production of the hormone melatonin
- production of the hormone serotonin
- body's circadian rhythm (its internal clock, which regulates several biological processes during a 24-hour period)
So in layman's terms, lets all move to the Maldives!
Ok, back to reality, it is actually proven that certain positions/asanas can help the symptoms of depression and also neutralise the chemical imbalance in the brain that causes types of depression. The breathing used in yoga, such as Ujjayi, calms our stress response system and contributes to a state of calm. The result is a mind-body connection that can have far-reaching effects. The benefits that calming the mind and slowing down the breath can have are undeniable. Yoga also promotes self love and acceptance of who are you and loving and respecting your body. As a nation we are so obsessed with the media and body image and what is the perfect body, face, fashion and don't get me wrong, I'm into fashion and I like to look good but I believe in and practice moderation. I also do yoga, A LOT!!! And I love the healthy, strong and empowered body that comes with it. Love your body and love yourself, first and foremost. Love each curve and every part of your internal and external make up. That is what makes you, you!
In this week's classes I will be focussing on hip opening, feel good postures to release any tension or negativity trapped in the body. When I look how easily my little monkey, who is 20 months now, squats and puts her feet over her head I realise just how much tension we store in our bodies as we experience life and get older. That's why this type of practice is so important, bringing back movement in the joints and melting any emotional pain away. Freeing the body and freeing the mind.
Starting with a gentle Crescent Lunge pose (Anjaneyasana) to draw awareness to the hip joints and then continue to open them with a gentle Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) flow adding in Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II) and eventually reaching Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandra Chapasana) as the peak of that sequence.
For my more Level 2/3 classes we will then work on arm strength and gentle arm balances such as Pendant Pose (Lolasna) to get the arms ready for our ultimate peak posture and one that I have a real love/hate relationship with, Grasshopper (Shalabhasnana). I find that I have no problem when my left leg is on top of the right thigh but it's much more tricky on the other side with my tighter right hip. Instead of Grasshopper with my Level 1 classes we will be working on Tree Pose (Vrksasana) to toe balance with leg in tree and then walking the hands back to Upward Plank Pose (Purvottanasana).
After working on releasing the tension in the hips we will focus on opening the heart and backbending. Camel (Ustrasana) and its variations are fantastic for energising the body and particularly good for people who suffer from depression. It also works on stretching the psoas, the deep hip flexor which ties in nicely with our previous postures and sequence.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) is the perfect blend of relaxation, hip opening and back stretching to finish off class. Combining all the parts of the body worked on, it's lovely to also take it that bit further by putting the strap around the feet and waist to utilise this wonderful stretch.
This quote below by Jason Crandell is what I will be saying at the end of class while my yogis rest in Savasana. It's so poignant to this class but also something that should be acknowledged as a student of yoga in every class. As we open up the mind to light and awareness, simultaneously we also open up the body.
Namaste yogis, same time next week! Have a good one and enjoy the sunshine!!!
My shoutouts this week go to three gorgeous, strong women who have inspired me over many years and will no doubt inspire you too:
Tash Danson, super hot runner and model for Nike, founder of amazing jewellery brand @houseofscarlet and simply a wicked and brilliant person. We went to school together and after many years of friendship I am so proud of all she has achieved, although I never doubted she would go far!!
Check out her website and blog and Tash please can you sort out some yoga kit with those stunning House of Scarlet prints??!!
The ever gorgeous original Bolton lass Pippa Taylor. Great TV personality and another lovely lady who I have known for years and years. We got into lots of trouble in our teens, partying and causing mayhem in Portugal. Oh, those were the days!!! Check out her site and showreel, watch out for this lil lady she'll be a regular on your tv screens in no time!!
Kathryn Budig - yogi extraordinaire and although I have not been lucky enough to go to one of her classes in person, I adore taking them on @yogaglo. She is an amazing inspiration for any student and yoga teacher. I am also aware of some ridiculous accusations and "open letters" going around criticising Kathryn and "her brand" and I am disgusted. This is a strong, talented and kind person, it doesn't matter what her skin colour, size or background is, her personality and endearing demeanour is what makes her so fabulous.