Yoga for Depression – Part 8 of 8 – Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
Sit on your mat with legs outstretched. Stretch the arms overhead and lengthen the spine. On an exhalation, reach the arms forward and rest the hands on the feet, calves, or knees, depending on our level of flexibility. Stay in the pose, inhale deeply and on each successive exhalation, let the torso sink toward the legs. After several breaths, reach the arms forward on an inhale and come up to sitting.
While the ranks of Americans using Prozac and other antidepressants continues to grow (to the tune of $44 billion in sales annually) many others facing depression are finding relief on the mat. Stephen Cope, author of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self (Bantam 1999), explains, “Yoga postures can penetrate ‘character armor,’ our unconsciously held patterns of physical contractions and defenses.”
Inverted postures work particularly well. They alter blood flow, benefiting lymphatic drainage and the cranial sacral fluid. If there is increased blood flow to the head area, there will be increased availability of oxygen and glucose – the two most important metabolic substrates for the brain.
Patricia Walden, an international yoga teacher-trainer, recommends supported inversion as well as backbends for people suffering from a depression characterized by inertia or fatigue. For those experiencing anxiety, she advises a more active sequence, modified according to experience and physical energy level. Walden tells her depressed students to keep their eyes open wide while practicing and to move from posture to posture without pausing in between, to generate life force and focus the mind on the body.
Because there are different types of depression, some poses and sequences will work better for you than others. Listen to the needs of your body and make modifications accordingly. You will inevitably face difficult thoughts or feelings in you practice. Balance these with positive ones. As you create physical space within your posed, you will create space within your consciousness as well.
OTHER RECOMMENDED POSES
Salamba Adho Mukha Svanasana (Supported Downward-Facing Dog)
Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose)
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
Information from Any Weintraub (Yoga Journal)