Yoga for Immunity & Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Spring is on the distant horizon, but seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as the winter blues or winter depression affects a lot of people in the Northern hemisphere at this time of year. As such, I propose a yoga practice to boost your immunity, energy and mood to help shake this seasonal affective disorder.

What is seasonal affective disorder?

According to the definition on Wikipedia:

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression, winter blues, summer depression, summertime sadness,* or seasonal depression, is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer.

* I might be naive, but I don’t think summer depression exists in Montreal…

The sequence below focuses on opening the chest to clear congestion and stretching the abdomen to warm up and support agni (the digestive fire). This practice is also beneficial for stress management and when a gentle energy boost is needed.

Yoga for Immunity & Seasonal Affective Disorder

This practice is approximately 60 mins in length, but can be decreased to 45 mins or increased to 75-90 mins

OPENING & PRANAYAMA

  • Pawanmuktasana / Wind Releasing – Knee to chest – Begin reclined on back. INHALE and stretch arms overhead. EXHALE and pull RT knee to chest. Then repeat on LT side. (3-5x – can also try bringing both knees into chest);
  • Twist side to side – reclined: Exhale, twist knees to side; inhale, knees to centre (repeat);
  • Virasana / hero’s pose – breathing – alternate nostril breathing & kapalabhati (click here for pdf of how to);
  • Virasana – side stretching: Inhale, sit tall & extend RT arm in the air; Exhale, side bend to LT; Repeat 3-5x each side.

OPENING FLOW

  • Cat / Cow to Downward Dog: Starting in Dog, Inhale, lift heels; Exhale, knees to floor – back rounded; Inhale, arch back – cow pose; Exhale, ddog; Repeat 3-5x;
  • Surya Namaskar with low lunges (Hatha Salutation) 2-4x;
  • Surya Namaskar A 4-6x;
  • Surya Namaskar B 3x (optional).

STANDING POSES

Natarajasana – Dancer Pose

(5-8 breaths each side – start on RT side)

  • Windmill – Stand with feet wide apart and rotate torso right to left; Arms relaxed; Use momentum to loosen;
  • Trikonasana / Triangle;
  • Parsvakonasana / Side Angle;
  • Parivrtta Parsvakonasana / Side Angle twist;
  • Natarajasana / Dancer.

SEATED POSES & BACK BENDS

(5-8 breaths each)

  • Malasana / Garland pose – Low squat;
  • Bakasana / Crow (optional);
  • Navasana / Boat pose: 2-3x;
  • Purvottanasana / Inverted plank pose or Fish pose;
    Urdhva Danurasana – Wheel pose
  • Plank: On elbows or hands – 30-45 seconds or 6-10 slow breaths;
  • Shalabhasana / locust;
  • Dhanurasana / bow or half-bow;
  • Ustrasana / Camel.

CLOSING

  • Setu bandhasana / Bridge;
  • Urdhva dhanurasana / wheel (optional)
  • Supported inversion
  • Ananda Balasana / Happy Baby Pose
  • Balasana / Child’s pose or forward bend of choice
  • Sukhasana / easy cross
  • Savasana or restorative pose of choice (5 – 15 mins)
  • Meditation (optional);
    Balasana / Child's pose
    Balasana / Child’s pose
  • Om

SUPER LOW ENERGY?

A restorative practice is preferred when energy is low and the flu is starting to take over. Do long hold poses supported by props for 3-6 mins each. Meditation and pranayama is also good during this time. (Side note: It is not recommended to practice yoga if you have a fever.)

*Original posting: This article was originally posted in February 2016.

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