Monday, June 27, 2016

Yoga Poses for When You're Sad

Do you keep practicing yoga, even on days when you are sad?

I once heard a friend say that yoga is not always a practice for feeling better, yet it is a practice used for feeling more.

I love this thought, and I love that my yoga practice supports me even on days when I am gloomy, upset, grieving a loss, or feeling depressed.

Yoga can help us feel more, so that we can release negative feelings.

On days when you are feeling sad, or ready to release sadness, try these yoga postures to help you connect with the place you're in. You may just find that after your practice, you feel a little lighter. And if after practicing you still feel some intense feelings, please still give yourself permission to be exactly as you are; sometimes we need to feel heaviness before we can feel lightness again.

Begin in seated meditation.

Find stillness in a comfortable position.

Close your eyes and tune inward.

What's going on for you in this moment? Though it may be uncomfortable or a little unsettling, see if you can invite the feeling of sadness. Notice where it is present for you in your body. Maybe your hands or feet? The center of your chest? Your hips?

Without trying to change anything, simply notice. Bring your attention to your body.

If you're craving some movement, consider seated cat/cow for a few minutes, cat/cow from hands and knees, or a few sun salutations.

Then, come into pigeon pose. From downward facing dog, draw your right knee forward toward your right wrist. Allow your hips to sink down. Feel free to slide a block or pillow under your right hip, crawl your hands forward, coming down onto your elbows or letting your forehead rest on the ground.

Stay here for 1-5 minutes on each side. Be sure to keep breathing!

Again in this pose, invite feeling. If there are tears, allow them to process. Remind yourself, you are exactly where you need to be. Let your body be heavy, and your breath deep.

From pigeon, do a few rounds of low lunges (anjaneyasana) on each side. You can have your arms up overhead, lifting through the chest, or bring your arms down by your sides. You can even take a lizard variation, both hands inside the front foot.

Move around a bit and stretch your hips in a way that feels right.

Take a few audible exhales through your mouth. Release.

Move through downward facing dog on your way into Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) pose. Take up a lot of space in this pose.

Notice the wide stance of your feet, and the expansive reach of your arms. Get tall in your spine and gaze forward over your front middle finger. Set your gaze.

Then, allow the pose to intensify a little. Breathe more. Feel the large muscles in your legs start to fire. Engage the muscles around your core, your center, and picture energy lifting up through the spine -- tailbone all the way to the crown of the head.

Tune into your power center. Perhaps today, even with the feeling of sadness, you can also feel the energy of strength. Notice the play between these two energies, and offer what you can in the pose. Surrender your expectations.

If you can, stay for 8-10 breaths on each side in Warrior II. 

Next, have a seat on your mat. Take your legs wide to a straddle and take wide legged (seated) forward fold. You can walk your chest forward down toward the mat, tucking your chin into your chest. Or maybe you try an upright version of the stretch, with your fingertips placed on the ground behind your hips, and you lift up through the chest, finding a little backbend.

Deep breaths here, sending energy into the back body and the backs of the legs.

End with legs up the wall pose. Scoot your booty as close to the wall as you can, lay back, and then bring your legs up the wall. Allow your whole body to soften and rest. Let the breath slow down.

Come back to the feeling of when you started your practice. Notice your emotions, and where you may feel them in the body.

You can begin counting the breath for a few minutes, inhaling to a count of 4, and exhaling to a count of 5 or 6. Or, try inviting the mantra, I am that I am. On the inhale, I am. On the exhale, that I am.

Stay for as long as you like, taking your time to finish your practice and return to your day. Always the option here to spend a few minutes journaling about what came up for you. 

Here's a summary of the YOGA FOR SADNESS practice:
  • Seated meditation. Notice where in your body you may feel your emotions.
  • Cat/cow to warm up
  • Pigeon pose (1-5 minutes on each side)
  • Low lunge or lizard on each side (breathe into the hips)
  • Downdog
  • Warrior II
  • Seated wide legged forward fold (Upavistha Konasana)
  • Legs up the wall (deep rest)
  • Optional journaling :) 

May your yoga practice be an act of kindness toward your body, and a key to finding healing and peace. Namaste.

Photos in this post by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography (1-4, 6), and Felipe Silva of The Uprise Collective (5). Graphic illustration created using Canva.

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