Asanas and breathing exercises to enhance mood, boost energy levels

Anke Neustadt

Stress has become a part of life, but instead of living with it, we must find the tools with which to combat it. Yoga is one such tool that can deal with physical, emotional and mental issues caused by stress, and give you a better perspective of life.

According to Samiksha Shetty, a certified yoga educator and the founder of Moon Village Cafe, yoga postures (asanas), breathwork (Pranayama) and meditation induce a sense of calm and relaxation from within, and if you are looking for how you can de-stress, this is what you need to know.

“In yoga, we use movement and breath to release stuck energy along the spine and throughout the body. The mind-body connection created in yoga facilitates change at a cellular level. Our nervous systems can rewire by retraining psychological or emotional triggers that set off our flight-or-fight response,” she explains.

She lists these asanas and breath exercises to enhance the mood and give you an instant spike in energy.

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1. Downward-facing dog /Adho Mukha Svanasana

This helps unwind the entire body. It strengthens the arms and shoulders, lengthens the spine, calves and hamstrings and energises the body by bringing blood flow to the brain.

Start on the floor by placing your hands and knees down. Straighten your legs by lifting your knees off the floor and push your heels down as far as they can go. Extend the spine by pushing away from the ground using your palms. Stay here for 5 to 9 breaths.

2. Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)

Your spine holds your entire body upright, is part of the central nervous system and responsible for all bodily functions. This is where repressed anger and stress is held. Backbends work on your heart chakra as it opens the chest and leaves you feeling more energised.

Come to your knees, with your legs hip-width apart. Place your hands on your hips, with your thumbs at the base of your spine. Press your shins and the top of your feet into the mat (or tuck your toes for an easier version). Inhale, lift your chest and slowly start to bring your torso back. From here, bring your right hand to rest on your right heel and your left hand to rest on the left heel. Keep your head in a relatively neutral position, so as to not strain your neck. Hold for 30 seconds.

3. Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose)

This pose relieves stiffness in the ankles, knees and hips and improves hip mobility. It also helps give a good emotional release. Your hips store pent up emotions of fear and worry which blocks you from moving forward.

Variation 1: Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you and spine erect. Now, bring the soles of your feet together, bending both your knees to the side. Place your feet in front of your pelvis, around a fist distance from your groin. Now, take deep breaths and press your thighs and knees down towards the floor providing gentle pressure. In a slow and controlled motion begin to flap both your legs from the hip like the wings of a butterfly for around 60 seconds.

Variation 2: Once you come into position with your feet pressed together, hold them with your hands and open your feet like a book towards the ceiling. Take a deep breath and on your exhale, bend forward bringing your chin or forehead towards the mat. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and then come back up.

Variation 3: Supta Baddhakonasana (lying down on the floor with legs in the same position).

4. Happy Child’s Pose

This asana lengthens and stretches out your spine and hips simultaneously. It also alleviates fatigue and moves the mind to a playful mode.

Lie down on your back with your knees bent into your belly. Grab your feet with your hands and keep your knees slightly wider than your torso. Your ankles should be directly above your knees. Now gently pull your hands down and simultaneously push your feet up to create resistance. Stay here for 9-12 breaths.

5. Savasana (Corpse Pose)

Savasana is one of the most important asanas in yoga. It balances your nervous system and helps the body enter a state of calm by removing emotional blockages.

Start by lying down on your back with your hands and legs stretched out keeping your body in one line. Keep your legs slightly apart and your feet and knees completely relaxed. Place your hands at your sides, palms open and facing upward. Feet and toes should be rolled out. Now close your eyes. Relax your entire body while breathing slowly and deeply. Observe the changes in the body and mind. Wait for 5-10 minutes or till you feel completely relaxed and then gently roll on to the right side making your way up into a seated position.

Beathing

Natural breath

Simply breathing and noticing the natural breath is necessary. The breath is the only voluntary and involuntary body function that reveals unconscious emotional, mental and physical patterns.

Try this:

– Breathe in and notice thoughts as they arise.
– Breathe out, and notice thoughts as they dissipate.
– Give yourself permission to detach from your thoughts during this time.
– Simply observe the quality of your natural breath.

Belly breathing/abdominal breathing

Sit in any comfortable meditative posture with your eyes closed. Bring your focus onto your navel. Keep your entire body still. Inhale, feel the diaphragm move downwards while expanding the abdominal muscles outwards. Exhale, feel the dominant abdomen contract as you pull in the belly.

If it is difficult to perform this breathing technique while sitting up straight, try performing it while lying down in savasana.

Also try

Body scan meditation: It is a good way to release physical tension. Start by lying down in savasana. Then begin by mentally scanning yourself, as you bring awareness to different parts of the body and bodily sensations, starting from the feet moving up towards the head.

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