It’s hard to be a human. Some days are easy, some are fun, and some are even exciting but other days, not so much. Life can be hard. We’ve all had those days when we want to pull the blankets over our heads and go back to sleep. Those are the days that a little extra mood boost can go a long way. Lucky for us, yoga can help.
Yoga can support us and create a safe space to move through our emotions during challenging times. Time on our yoga mats gives us a break from our ever-growing to-do lists, constant phone notifications, and endless laundry. Yoga gives us time to regroup, refocus, and reset our minds and bodies. It can be just the respite we need in our fast-paced society.
From personal experience, I can attest that yoga boosts my mood. Of the thousands of times I’ve stepped onto my mat, I can’t remember a time when I felt worse after my yoga practice than before I started. More often than not, I feel noticeably better!
I feel better physically but, maybe more importantly, I feel better mentally after yoga.
Science backs me up here, too. Yoga causes measurable changes in the body’s sympathetic nervous system, the one that pushes us into fight or flight mode. Practicing yoga lowers the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in our bodies. It also increases our feel-good hormones: dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. This helps us feel more content and relaxed.
On top of that, practicing yoga also affects the parasympathetic nervous system. This is responsible for calming us down and restoring balance back to our nervous system after a stressful event. The stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system brings the body into a state of healing and restoration.
Yoga is a great mood booster! That’s what makes us want to return to our yoga mats.
More contentment and relaxation plus a state of healing and restoration sounds like the perfect recipe for feeling better emotionally.
While a regular yoga practice will give us resilience both mentally and physically, there are specific yoga poses that will help us feel better and boost our moods quickly and effectively.
Try these asanas next time you want to improve your mood.
Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold
Facing the long edge of your mat, step your feet widely apart. Keep the outside edges of your feet parallel to the short ends of your mat. Bring your hands to your hips and squeeze your elbows toward each other. Exhale, hinge at your hips, and lean forward keeping your back as flat as you can. Bring your hands to blocks, the mat, or the tops of your feet. Take five full breaths here.
Downward Facing Dog Pose
Walk your hands around to frame your left foot. Then step it back to meet the right to step into Downward Facing Dog Pose. Hands are shoulder-width apart and feet are hip-width apart. Try to make a straight line from your wrists to your tailbone by lengthening your arms and your spine. Knees can be bent or straight as you reach your heels toward the mat. Take five full breaths.
Upward Facing Dog Pose
Lower onto your belly with your hands under your shoulders. Press into your hands while you use your back muscles to lift your chest. Straighten your arms. Press into the tops of your feet to lift your knees, thighs, and pelvis off the mat. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and push your chest forward. Take up to five full breaths here.
Supported Bridge Pose
Come down onto your back. Bend your knees and place your feet hip-width apart onto the mat. Press firmly into your feet as you lift your hips and back off the mat into Bridge Pose. Slide a block under your sacrum and release the weight of your body onto the block. If the edge of the block is pressing into your low back, lift up and bring it closer to your feet so your low back can relax.
Your yoga block has three levels: low, medium, and high. Pick the height that feels best for you. Ideally, it would be high enough to open your chest but low enough that the arch of your low back can relax.
Allow your arms to rest on the mat. Since this pose is a supported, restorative pose, stay for up to 10 breaths.
Inhale and press into your feet to lift your hips and remove the block. As you exhale, as slowly as you can release your hips and back down onto your mat again.
Sit with your hip touching the wall. As you exhale, swing your legs up as you bring your back onto your mat. Your heels will rest on the wall. The closer your hips are to the wall, the greater the stretch for your hamstrings.
Because the feet are above the heart, this pose promotes the flow of blood back to the heart and tells the body and nervous system to rest and destress. This helps calm the mind.
These mood-boosting yoga poses can help when you need a pick me up!
Life can get hard. Take some time for yourself with these poses to feel a little better.
Give yourself time in each pose to really check-in with yourself. How do you feel? What’s going on physically in your body? How are you breathing?
Keep your awareness on your breath as much as possible in these mood-boosting yoga poses. Breathe slowing in and out through your nose. This helps calm the mind and slow down our thoughts so we can feel better physically and mentally.
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