Amy Weintraub, C-IAYT, MFA, E-RYT 500, YACEP, is the founder of the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, an acclaimed yoga therapist, and a pioneer in the field of yoga and mental health. In 1999 Amy wrote “The Natural Prozac”, Yoga Journal’s first article addressing yoga and depression. She is the author of Yoga for Depression, Yoga Skills for Therapists; the new card deck, Yoga for Your Mood: 52 Ways to Shift Depression and Anxiety, and numerous articles and book chapters. She guides thousands of practitioners and yoga and mental health professionals around the world. Her Silver Nautilus Award winning novel Temple Dancer was released in 2020. She thrives in Tucson, Arizona, where she mountain bikes, dances, writes, and creates.
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We’re living in stressful times, take care of yourself in your life and yoga practice
Stress damages our physical and mental health including the immune system. Yoga balances the autonomic nervous system to clear the space and help reduce stress.
Often people have difficulty accessing deep breathing and diaphragmatic breathing due to the constriction due to trauma. Sometimes breathwork can release lots of emotions, so best to go slowly at first.
Adapt your practice physically and emotionally for what suits your body and your mind today, whether in a chair or on a mat. It’s okay to feel big emotions or cry on your yoga mat. Crying is one of the highest spiritual practices and a big release.
Bring into your heart’s mind an image that represents calm strength (from nature, a face, deity or a word like “courage.”)
Bellows Breath (Bhastrika) – Inhale through the nose and raise the hand over head with open palms and exhale to bring the fists down with thumbs closed inside. Alternative 1: bring the hands forward and back. Alternative 2: open and close the fists.
Inhale 2/3 capacity with mula bandha (root lock, lifting the pelvic floor) and imagine the energy coming up the left side of the body and exhale imagining the energy going down the right side of the body. Try the mantra “I am here.”
Try Garuda mudra over the heart center with the thumbs linked bringing your image of calm strength to mind. Inhale to bring the arms out in front and bring it towards the body with the mantra Ma-Ha-Ra (calm strength) then Ma-Ha-Ya (heart strength). Bring compassion to your heart and set an intention for your practice with the healing tone of Om.
Yoga practice for anxiety and depression
Breath of joy is a three part inhalation seated or standing. Inhale the arms forward, inhale the arms to the sides, and inhale the arms up overhead. Then exhale the arms down and back into a chair pose saying ha or lum on the exhale.
Pratyahara is the calming withdrawing of the senses that can help with meditation with the Shanmukhi mudra. Press the index fingers to the inner corners of the eyes, put the middle fingers on the sides of the nose, the ring fingers above the lips and the little fingers below the mouth. Use the thumbs to close the ears.
Five pointed star to victory goddess with mantra Di-Ri-Ha. Bring an image to mind of a time you felt powerful and strong. Bring the arms out wide, palms face down and feet in a wide straddle. Exhale with bent the elbow and lowering the body ad you exhale “Di-Ri-Ha” with a gentle pump of the belly.
Polishing the diamond of the heart (Vajrapradama Mudra): Interlock all ten fingers, release the thumbs and hold the hands with open palms a few inches from the heart. Try the mantras, “Unshakable confidence and trust flows through me now.” And “I have everything I need to manage my life.” Then bring the hands to the heart center.
Sha May Ya – bring an image for peace and inhale the arms in front of the body and bring the hands to the heart then exhale “Sha-may-ya” while bringing the hands to the heart. Rock back and forth with the hands over the heart thinking of the peaceful image.
Bhramari (bee breath) – inhale through the nose and exhale by humming.
Nada yoga is an ancient Indian metaphysical system. It is equally a philosophical system, a medicine, and a form of yoga.
Ma Ha means grand, royal.
Ra is the sound for the solar plexus, the seat of self and identity.
Yam is the sound for the heart chakra.
Shanti means peace.