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Yoga for Depression: Breath of Joy
If you need some energy and motivation to roll out your yoga mat, practice this simple, energizing practice called “Breath of Joy.” This three part breathing technique is a staple warm-up exercise in many yoga classes.
Amy Weintraub, author of Yoga for Depression and founder of LifeForce Yoga Healing Institute, recommends this practice to help sweep away the sluggishness of depression and infusing the mind with a serene sense of clarity. By creating a state of homeostatic balance, the Breath of Joy has been found to be particularly effective in managing mood, and will leave you feeling more balanced and refreshed. The practice counters the shallow upper chest breathing of anxiety by inviting the breath to completely fill the lungs.
The strong inhalations and synchronized arm movements, awakens your entire system —increasing oxygen levels in the bloodstream, temporarily stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, circulating more prana, and gently stoking agni. The forceful exhalation lightly detoxifies the body and helps release pent-up tension.
Step by Step Instructions - Also See the Yoga Video with the Practice Below:
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel, knees slightly bent.
2. Inhale one-third of your lung capacity and swing your arms up in front of your body, bringing them parallel to each other at shoulder level, with palms facing the ceiling.
3. Continue inhaling to two-thirds capacity and stretch your arms out to the side like wings to shoulder level.
4. Inhale to full capacity and swing your arms parallel and over your head, palms facing each other.
5. Open your mouth and exhale completely with an audible ha, bending the knees more deeply as you sink into a standing squat and swing your arms down and back behind you like a diver.
Repeat up to nine times: Don’t force or strain the body or breath; simply be absorbed by the peacefully stimulating rhythm. Return to standing. Close your eyes and experience the effects. Notice how quickly your heart beats; feel the sensations in your face and arms, and the tingling in the palms of your hands.
Variation: For a lighter, brighter mood, add a bija mantra to each arm movement. As you lift your arms out in front of you, silently inhale the sound of va; as your arms move to the side, intone the syllable ra; with arms overhead, the sound is ya. Finish by exhaling completely as you speak the sound of ha out loud.
Contraindications: If you have high blood pressure or if you suffer from any kind of head or eye injury, like migraines or glaucoma, it’s best to skip this practice. Also, if you start to feel light-headed, stop for a minute and just breathe normally.