By Carolyn Cowan
When not teaching Kundalini yoga I work as a sex therapist with a specialisation in trauma, addiction, anxiety and pre and postnatal issues. My 23 years of yoga practice informs my therapy work and equally, my therapy training constantly makes bridges across to my yoga teaching and personal practice.
When we are unhappy, whether existential, depression or anxiety based, we are contracted. This makes a rather exquisite sense. Of course we are. We are responding to our perceived or experienced reality and or history and we can be very attached to the contracted state. Our lives, social media, finances, trying to mate, to connect, to be seen….. all these very human needs are very stressful even though they can also be rewarding, hilarious, calming and important.
The psychology of posture is quite a wonderful landscape in which one can profoundly change how one feels, almost in an instant. And yet when we “feel” anxious or depressed, only a few of us turn to this wonderful and healing art.
If you struggle with how you feel, emotionally, then there are a few key postures that have an instant effect upon our state. Think of these as “first thing in the morning, or when overwhelmed, essentials.”
1. Stand tall and straight with your legs apart. As you inhale, raise your clasped hands high above your head, keep breathing deeply and stretching up, drop one hip and stretch your arms across to the opposite side to the dropped hip and inhale again. Do the same to the other side. Feel all of your back and shoulder blade muscles stretch. Do this a couple more times each side then exhale and fold forward. (If in the last trimester of pregnancy stop here as the next move will be uncomfortable.)
2. Bent forward, twist sideways to have both hands on your left foot and exhale bending your right knee, notice an amazing stretch through your back and inner thighs. Inhale to the centre and exhale to the right foot with both hands and bend your left knee, again, noticing and helping that really deep stretch. Continue for 10 breaths each side.
3. Sit cross-legged and slowly, slowly, arms above your head, twist to the left and begin to lower yourself, moving your shoulders in circles and shrugs, so that you slowly descend over the left knee.
Take a few deep breaths and then inhale up and take both arms above your head and turn to the right, making the same movements to open up the opposite hip flexor and all the back muscles more deeply that in the first stretches.
Continue for a few deep breaths.
If in the last trimester of pregnancy, don’t go over the knee, allow yourself to let your left elbow gently and slowly descend towards the floor and the right arms push over to the left above your head.
4. Sit up straight and with your hands on your knees, as you inhale really deeply, stretch up your chin, your neck, your chest and allow the rest of the stretch to descend down into the belly and pelvis, slowly. Then as you exhale, lower your chin, open your shoulder blades, push all the air from your belly, drop back on your pelvic bones and curl up into a C shape.
Continue with this slow, undulating movement, inhaling opening up the throat, chest and belly, and exhaling pushing the spine back and really emptying the lungs as you curl up.
Three minutes of this will relax the intestines and then stimulate serotonin to be released into the body. After three minutes lie back, calm and still, and allow the brain to take up the serotonin.
A good piece of music for this practice is Mere Kabu by DJ Cheb I Sabbah and the whole series is suitable for pregnancy but please follow the instruction when changed for the last trimester.