Let’s create a little more space around the depressed mood or lethargy, with a short, safe adaption of a yoga breathing practice called bellows breath (bhastrika).
This breath is especially good for depression. The subjective experience is one of mild elation, followed by a feeling of relaxation. During practice, the sympathetic nervous system is briefly stimulated. However, following practice, the parasympathetic system is awakened. Blood pressure and heart rate usually drop to or below the resting rate, and the autonomic nervous system comes back into balance.
NOTE: Please do not practice Bellows Breath if you have un-medicated high blood pressure. If you have low blood pressure, you might enjoy a little light headedness afterwards, so be sure to practice in a seated position. If there is shoulder soreness or injury, practice Bellows Breath with the arms coming forward and back in front of the chest.
Various yoga traditions teach Bellows Breath differently. But in all traditions, both inhalation and exhalation are deep and forceful. The breath is most safely instructed at the rate of one inhalation and one exhalation per second. Increasing the speed risks producing an over-stimulating effect that can actually raise anxiety levels. You might feel cranky and overheated. If you live with bipolar disorder 1 and have a propensity toward mania, too many stimulating practices like bellow breath can trigger a manic response.
- Sit comfortably with your spine erect. Bend your elbows and make fists with your hands, bringing fists to your shoulders so that the knuckles face out, with the forearms and upper arms hugging the torso. Take a normal natural breath in and out.
- As you inhale through the nostrils, send your arms straight up, over your head with great force, opening your palms to face outward and spreading your fingers wide.
- Exhale with great force through the nostrils as you bring your arms back to the starting position again, making fists with your hands.
- Do this at a moderate pace 10 – 20 times, and then rest for 30 seconds. You may practice two more rounds of 20 each, pausing for 20 to 30 seconds between rounds.
- When you have completed the practice, sit for several moments, observing the effects. Sense into face, arms, palms. Feel the sensation in your palms.
- Inhale to the crown with the phrase, “I am.” Exhale to the sitting bones, “here.” Do this two more times.
This practice was adapted from a Chapter Amy wrote for the new book Darkness Before Dawn: Redefining the Journey through Depression. To order a copy of this inspiring new book click here.
For additional LifeForce Yoga practices purchase one of our LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues DVD. It can be streamed lived so you can begin your practice today!