Yoga is an invaluable gift that has been passed down to us by our ancestors. In yoga, we use movement and breath to release stuck energy along the spine and throughout the body. According to Samiksha Shetty – celebrity yoga expert and founder of wellness community space – yoga can help people to train their minds to respond more positively to situations, and elevates the mood through the use of breathwork, postures and more dynamic movements.
The primary focus of every yoga practice is to become aware of and regulate the breath which helps in lowering stress and anchoring oneself at the moment; both of which are needed to feel happier. Our nervous systems are what we’re tapping into in yoga. We can rewire our sympathetic nervous system by retraining out psychological or emotional triggers that set off our flight-or-fight response.
Here are 5 asanas for better mental health:
1. DOWNWARD-FACING DOG / ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA
I’m sure you’ve heard of this one. This Asana helps unwind the entire body. It strengthens the arms and shoulders, lengthens the spine, calves and hamstrings, energises the entire body by bringing blood flow to your brain and reduces stress and anxiety.
• Start on the floor by placing your hands and knees down. Straighten your legs by lifting your knees off the floor and push your heels down as far as they can go. Extend the spine by pushing away from the ground using your palms.
• Stay here for 5 to 9 breaths.
2. USHTRASANA (CAMEL POSE)
Your spine literally holds your entire body upright, is part of the central nervous system and responsible for all bodily functions. Here is where all repressed anger and stress is held. This yoga pose stimulates and energizes the mind and body. Backbends work on your heart chakra as it opens the chest and leaves you feeling more energized and awaken.
Come to your knees, with your legs hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips, with your thumbs at the base of your spine. Press your shins and the top of your feet into the mat (or tuck your toes for an easier version). Inhale lift your chest and slowly start to bring your torso back. From here, bring your right hand to rest on your right heel and your left hand to rest on your left heel. Keep your head in a relatively neutral position so as to not strain your neck. Hold for 30 seconds.s
3. BADDHAKONASANA (Badda-Bound and Kona-Angle / Butterfly Pose)
This pose relieves stiffness in the ankles, knees, hips, glutes and improves hip mobility. It also helps give you a good emotional release. Your hips store pent up emotions of fear and worry which blocks you from moving forward, hence giving you a feeling of being stuck and trapped.
• Variation-1: Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you and spine erect. Now, bring the soles of your feet together bending both your knees out to the side. Place your feet in front of your pelvis, around a fist distance from your groin. Now, take deep breaths and press your thighs and knees down towards the floor providing gentle pressure. In a slow and controlled motion begin to flap both your legs from the hip like the wings of a butterfly for around 60 seconds and then release.
• Variation-2: Once you come into position with your feet pressed together. Hold your feet with your hands and open your feet like a book towards the ceiling. Take a deep INHALE and on your EXHALE, bend forward bringing your chin or forehead towards the mat. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and then on the next INHALE come back up.
• Variation-3: Supta Baddhakonasana (lying down on the floor with legs in the same position).
4. HAPPY CHILD’S POSE – This is the closest you can get to unadulterated happiness this asana lengthens and stretches out your spine while stretching out your hips simultaneously. It also alleviates fatigue and moves the mind to a playful mode which is a prerequisite to stop resisting all that is holding you back.
• Lie down on your back with your knees bent into your belly. Grab your feet with your hands and keep your knees slightly wider than your torso. Your ankles should be directly above your knees. Now gently pull your hands down and simultaneously push your feet up to create resistance. Stay here for 9-12 breaths.
5. SHAVASANA (CORPSE POSE)
• Shavasana though seems easy, it is one of the most important asanas in yoga. Many of us skip this asana as we do not see it’s benefits.
• This asana balances your nervous system. It helps our body enter a state of calm and ease. It helps remove emotional blockages and helps your body cool down.
• After completion of the yoga session lie down on your back with your hands and legs stretched out keeping your body in one line. Keep your legs slightly apart and your feet and knees completely relaxed. Place your hands at your sides on the floor, palms open and facing upward. Feet and toes should be rolled out. Now close your eyes. Gradually relax your entire body while breathing slowly and deeply. Observe the changes in the body, mind and breathe. Wait for 5-10 minutes or till you feel completely relaxed and then gently roll on to the right side making your way up into a seated position.