Yoga for the Winter Blues: Japa Recitation and Chanting
By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
As we enter into the heart of the winter season, it is not uncommon many people, including Yoga practitioners, to experience a low level form of depression. Some of the symptoms of low-grade depression are a lack of motivation, pervasive sadness, a sense of hopelessness, and regret. If you are vulnerable to depression, during the wintertime these symptoms may be exacerbated if you do not spend enough time in the sunlight. Natural sunlight helps to boost your mood by stimulating your body to produce serotonin.
When serotonin levels are in a normal range, you are much less likely to suffer from depression. The low-grade form of depression that often develops when there is a lack of ample sunlight is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, if you find that you suffer from these symptoms for an extended period of time throughout the year, you may be suffering from a more serious form of depression. If this is the case, it is highly advisable for you to seek out the assistance of a professional healthcare provider or therapist.
Engaging in a regular Yoga practice that includes a series of asanas, pranayama exercises and meditation techniques will help to keep your body and mind healthy and balanced throughout the winter. Two Yogic techniques for boosting a low mood that I have found to be highly effective are the repetition of sacred mantras, known as japa, and the chanting of sacred names or syllables. These are classical Yoga techniques for shifting negative thought patterns and for enhancing the flow of pranic energy throughout the body.
Although the practice of japa might seem intimidating at first, it is actually quite straightforward. All you do is repeat a word or short phrase for a dedicated period of time. The simple act of focusing the mind on one word or phrase helps to free the mind from focusing on negativity. The singular act of repeating a sacred word or phrase also helps the mind to quiet and rest.
Usually the mantra that is chosen is considered to be a sacred syllable, word or phrase, which helps to ground the mind in divinity. If you are unsure of which word or phrase to use when you practice japa, repeating “om” is a very good choice. The vibrations of the syllable om resonates with the very creative pulsation of the universe. By repeating om silently or out loud for a period of time, you will align yourself more closely with the divine energy that surrounds us all.
In the Yogic tradition, chanting entails the singing of sacred mantras for an extended period of time. I have found the practice of chanting to be one of the most effective ways of bolstering a low mood. Not only does Yogic chanting help the mind to release its grip on negative thinking patterns, the vibration of the sacred syllables, mantras and names of gods and goddesses helps to profoundly shift and enliven the energy in the body.
When your energy increases and flows more freely throughout your body, you will feel better and be able to more optimistically move through your day. If you are not sure how to begin the practice of chanting, there are a number of free websites that offer a wide diversity of classical Yoga chants. Different arrangements or ragas will have different effects on your mind and body. Some ragas are more introspective, well other ragas are exhilarating. You may wish to experiment and chant with a few different videos or tracks, until you find a style and a rhythm that suits your individual nature.
During the cold winter months, maintaining a steady Yoga practice, with the inclusion of japa recitation and Yogic chanting, will help to keep your heart and your mind light and positive. When the weather permits, spending time out in the sunshine is also an important aspect of mitigating depressive symptoms during the wintertime. Additionally, remaining socially engaged by spending time doing activities you enjoy with family and friends will help to warm your heart and banish the winter blues.
Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a Yoga and health-related freelance writer and academic support specialist. She is currently accepting writing assignments and may be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2014 – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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