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Using Yoga To Pick Yourself Up When You're Down

Posted Mar 19 2008 5:03pm 1 Comment

Have you ever had one of those days when you feel like...well, you feel yucky. Maybe it's physically or maybe you're in a bad mental or emotional place (perhaps you're throwing yourself a little self-pity party and whining "woe is me."). We all have those down-in-the-dumps moments, hours, days. These past few days I've been a bit under the weather. I'm not feeling myself and I generally have little desire to do anything but lay on the couch.

When I'm not feeling well, it's easy for me to slip into negative thinking that only seems to make me feel worse. I get frustrated by the fact that my body isn't well and I start feeling guilty that I'm not doing what needs to be done. Today I decided to take a different approach to the whole sick thing. After waking up this morning feeling worse than I did yesterday, I set an intention to feel better while still being sick. How does one do that, you ask? Baby steps!

Rather than set my sights on feeling 100% healthy and back to my normal self, I focused on feeling just a little better. Okay, so being sick stinks. Now what? Well, I could make being sick not so awful by tucking myself on the couch with a cozy blanket and a stack of books that I've been wanting to read. That worked pretty well. After a little reading I was feeling better -- more pampered than sick. From there I decided that I'd increase my feel-good factor by watching an uplifting DVD that I've been longing to watch for the past few days. Sure enough, I started feeling even better. Granted, my physical state was still a bit shakey, but mentally and emotionally I was way better than pity and frustration.

Of course I wanted to continue to feel better, so I decided that a little yoga would help (I find that yoga always makes me feel better!). My practice today looked totally different than it normally does -- I practiced in the afternoon instead of the morning and my practice was a mishmash of poses, movements that I don't normally do. I set a firm intention to only do movements that made me feel better and that I would stop if I started to feel badly. Interestingly enough, I did something that I never thought I'd do when I first thought about practicing today -- I broke a sweat. And it felt good. As my practice progressed I started feeling stronger and now that it's done, I feel relaxed and much more like myself. I may not be miraculously healed, but for the first time in the last 48 hours I feel like I'm on my way.

Today's practice ended with one of my favorite Kundalini Kriyas. The movement is simple -- you start standing and then sit down. After sitting, you stand back up. Sounds easy, right? Well, the catch is that you sit down and stand up without using your hands. You rely solely on core strength and leg strength (and mental strength, I might add). I tend to practice this kriya when I'm feeling a bit low or sluggish because it reminds me that I can get myself up -- with my own strength and sheer will. Not only is it a wonderfully symbolic and uplifting move but it's also a great aerobic move (it really gets your heart pumping).

So when you're feeling icky, bad, like dog excrement, sick, bummed, whatever, rely on a little pick-me-up yoga:

  1. Ask yourself -- "What will make me feel better?" You don't have to go for broke here -- you're not looking for a complete 180 degree change. You just want to make a small improvement. Maybe a bath would make you feel a little better. Or an uplifting book. Or some inspirational music. Or a massage. Or some movement (a little yoga a day...). Just think of a little thing that will make you feel a little bit better.
  2. Build on it. Now that you're feeling a smidge better, what would make you feel even more so?
  3. Try any/all of these yoga poses/movements to get your energy flowing:
  • Stand with your feet hip width apart and bounce up and down (while keeping the soles of your feet planted firmly on the ground). Keep your knees soft and bounce. Now make some sounds everytime your body goes down. Some ha's or ah's or whatever feels "right" to you.
  • Stand in mountain and, on an inhale, raise your arms above your head. By the time your breath ends, your palms should be touching each other. On the exhale, bring your arms back down to your sides. Again, your arms should come to rest near your sides at the end of the exhale. You're coordinating your breath and movement here, which is going to take quite a bit of concentration. Do this about 5-10 times.
  • Spinal twists -- stand with your feet hip width apart and let your arms hang limply at your sides. Twist your body to the right, keeping the position of your feet and legs fixed. As you twist, allow your arms to rotate and entwine your body. Rotate your head as your twist. Then twist to the left, alternating sides as quickly as feels comfortable to you.
  • Body drops -- stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. While keeping your toes and balls of the feet on the ground, move your heels out to the sides a bit. This will spread your sacrum and open up some space in your lower back. On an inhale raise your arms straight out in front of you and up (they stay shoulder-width apart) and on the exhale let your body drop down, hands to the floor. After a few times, add in a "Ha" sound when you exhale.
  • Side bends -- Stand with your feet about hip width apart. On an inhale raise your arms up above your head and bring your palms together. Now intertwine all of your fingers with the exception of your index fingers (your hands are clasped with the exception of your two index fingers which are sticking up). One an exhale bend your body to one side, moving your opposite hip towards the side (if you're moving your body to the right, your left hip will move to the left). On the inhale come back up to center. Do the same on the other side. Repeat about 5 times.
  • Sit in an easy, cross-legged position or in Rock pose (knees bent, sitting on your heels) and do some head rolls. Very gently roll your head in one direction for a minute or so and then do the same on the other side. Keep your shoulders and jaw relaxed (your mouth might even fall open) while slowly rolling the head. After you've done both directions, move your head in a figure-8 movement. It's like you're tracing a figure-8 pattern with your nose. Move only as fast as feels comfortable for you.
  • Sit down and stand up using only your core and leg strength. Do for 1-2 minutes.
  • Viparita karani -- legs up the wall pose. Click here for instructions.

I did many of these postures along with a few other movements and they definitely brought me to a better place. I'm not quite ready to go out and conquer the world, but I feel better. And I know that I can continue to make myself feel better and soon I'll be back to my normal, healthy self. In the meantime, I going to make to most of enjoying my downtime. And I'm going to remember that a little movement always makes me feel better (and it sure beats the heck out of moping around feeling sorry for my sick self!).

Here's to feeling a little bit better...and better...and better.

Namaste!

Comments (1)
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Thanks for sharing this. I find that yoga can really help my mood. If more people did yoga regularly, we would probably put the big pharmaceutical companies out of business. The kundalini kriyas can be especially good for releasing old stuck energy and breathing new life into yourself. It's also nice to be able to add some yoga in when you are feeling sick...it can really help you feel better if you listen to your body.
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