By Gopi Rao
Did your yoga teacher training prepare you to help students deal with their winter blues? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a seasonal form of depression. This disorder tends to occur most frequently in the fall and winter months in geographical areas of the world that are furthest from the equator. As winter ensues in parts of the world such as North America, Northern Europe, Scandinavia and so on, the diminishing amount of sunlight can profoundly affect people who are vulnerable to depression. The blustery weather conditions during the winter months in these areas also dissuades people from going outside and exercising in the brief periods of sunlight that are available each day. Statistically, women are more four times more likely to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder than men.
Low levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain cause Seasonal Affective Disorder. Serotonin levels in our brains are positively affected by sunlight. When the sunlight diminishes during the fall and winter months, individuals who are prone to low levels of serotonin can dip below a healthy level of this important neurotransmitter. Recently, scientists have also determined that people who are low in Vitamin D are more likely to develop SAD during the fall and winter months. Some of the symptoms of SAD are generalized fatigue, irritability, insomnia, poor sex drive and difficulty making decisions. All of these symptoms are classic symptoms of depression.
Yoga poses that help to improve circulation, open the heart chakra and release stress and tension will help to alleviate symptoms of SAD and re-balance brain chemistry. Vigorous standing postures will help to generate energy, heat in the body and improve the circulation of fresh blood and nutrients into every area of the body. A great way to begin your yoga training session is to do five to ten rounds of sun salutations with Ujjayi breathing. The combination of this vigorous vinyasa with Ujjayi breathing will leave you feeling light, energized and buoyant. These feelings are the antithesis of SAD. After warming up with a series of sun salutations, practicing back bending poses will expand your chest and heart areas, further helping to lift your mood. Bow Pose is one of the best poses for opening up the entire front of the body.
To practice bow pose, lie on your stomach on your yoga mat. Feel the ground beneath you as you bend your knees and grasp your ankles. With your next inhale; raise your legs and chest up by pressing your ankles into your hands. Keep your knees in alignment with your hips. Do not let them fall out to the side. Feel the expansion of your chest, throat, shoulders and quadriceps. Hold this pose for five breaths. With your next exhale, come down and rest with your check on your mat. Repeat two more times.
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