Backbends ARE mood elevators!

It’s true. I was just reminded of that.  Yoga poses CAN be medicine.  It’s amazing.

I admitted to my Saturday morning class today that I am struggling with winter right now.  Where I live, we’ve had a grayer-than-average winter so far, in a place where we typically have a fair number of cold but very sunny days.  I’m missing the sun. I’m missing seeing the bare ground, and I’m missing seeing the stars and the moon.  It’s not a crisis by any means; I’m fed, housed, employed, and loved.  I just feel like longer, brighter days are far away and like I wouldn’t mind a little tropical vacation right about now.  Only, I can’t get away.  Nor can I change the weather or the pace of the coming of spring.  So I have to change me.

This afternoon I drove over the pass to go to a workshop taught by my friend Neesha Zollinger, who owns and teaches at Akasha Yoga in Jackson, WY.  Conveniently for me, she wanted to work on backbends.  Backbends are widely reputed to be anti-depressives – the “prozac” of yoga poses, as it were.  They force you deep into your heart and then draw you up and out of yourself in a way that no other poses do.  And you can’t really do them halfway.  You’re either in and in deep, or you’re not in at all.  So, I’m at the workshop after all; I’m not going to NOT do them…which means I’m in, listening to and acting on each of Neesha’s instructions and engaging fully with my body.  I’m working my foundation and my tailbone like mad to protect my low back as I progress, and I’m digging deep to get into the somewhat contracted space behind my heart.  I’m breathing, I’m moving, and I’m pushing myself, all the while tuning my awareness to each instruction’s effects on my alignment and attitude.  And before you know it, I am doing backbends that are about as full as I’m capable of, with no pain at all.  Time slides away, and then I’m warming down.  I’m in savasana, feeling tired, yes – but also radiant.  Winter grays?  Oh yeah, that.  Whatever!

After 9 years of continuous yoga practice I am still consistently amazed at how well this stuff works.  Put yourself in some different positions, breathe, change positions, be mindful, and, – voila!  You shift.  Crazy!  Neesha was talking a bit about the neurotransmitters that go to work when you practice, that chemically alter your bodily experience.  I have read extensively about the changes that happen in your brain when you choose to be attentive.  This combination of focus, awareness, breathing and movement changes your chemical composition – in a good way.  You are literally a different person!  And if you came to the mat feeling like I did today, that’s a good thing.

A couple months ago a committed student of mine asked me, “how do I know which poses have which effects on me?”  – which is a great question.  You can read B.K.S. Iyengar’s book “Light on Yoga,” and he’ll give you some ideas in there.  But ultimately, you practice.  And watch.  And feel.  And take note.  And before long, you’ll have a reference guide in your own mind and body, full of prescriptions to heal your mind and heart.  How cool is that?

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~ by bridgetannlyons on January 16, 2011.

One Response to “Backbends ARE mood elevators!”

  1. Cool Bridget- sounds like the grayness & darkness showed you where to look for the light!

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