Our emotional states can fluctuate constantly and this can affects our overall wellbeing. The yoga philosophy teaches us that we must learn to control the modifications of our mind, therefore our emotions also. When our mind is at peace, we also experience emotional balance. Therefore we must always work on the mind to quieten the overactivity. There are many practices we can use to help us with this, the following are some which can be included as a daily routine.
GET OUTSIDE IN NATURE
Being in nature is one of the best ways to calm the senses, feel connected & inspired. When we are in the presence of others, we pick up their energy instantly and this can create a cognitive or emotional reaction, or in some cases affect our our energy (particularly for energy sensitive individuals). But when we are in nature, we are surrounded by pure energy and calm. Take a short walk outdoors, watch the sunset, go for a swim, gaze at the moon, take 5 minutes to sit in the sunshine with your eyes closed and breathe in the light and warmth etc. Whatever option suits you best, just let yourself be in the presence of nature & get some fresh air.
DO SOMETHING CREATIVE
Find a hobby that sparkles your creativity. This can be baking, cooking, drawing, painting, writing, sewing, building something, etc.... When we engage in actions that are creative, we feel joyous, connected with ourselves & focused. And learning to focus the mind on what we are doing in that moment means being present in the now. Being creative activates the sacral chakra (Swadisthana) which is the energy field of creativity and feminine energy. It also represents how we deal with emotions, especially towards ourselves.
Connect with the people you love. Whether you meet with a friend for lunch, or just have a phone call with a loved one, keep connected with people daily. This increases the energy in Anahata, the heart chakra & helps us to maintain healthy levels of trust, openness, acceptance & a sense of belonging.
DAILY PHYSICAL EXERCISE
Develop the discipline to exercise daily. On some days, it will be more gentle such as a yin yoga session or a slow walk. On other days, it will be more dynamic such as an intense cardio session, a strong Vinyasa flow or a weight lifting session. Whatever feels good for you on the day, get in the habit to move your body daily. Physical exercise plays an important part in our emotional well being. Be mindful not to push yourself & your body over the limit; exercise to respect yourself & to feel good, not to punish yourself.
Take 5 minute breaks throughout the day to focus on your breath. Set reminders on your phone so that you can commit to it. When we focus on our breath, we practice Pratyahara, sense withdrawal. This means we connect inward and become more focused on our internal world, away from the external distractions. Counting breathing technique can be very useful. Inhale and count to 5, exhale and count to 5.
The quality of our sleep greatly impacts our overall wellbeing. Just as the physical body is resting, the mind must also be at peace.
This also means letting go of any negative thoughts, emotions and cognitive patterns. We can do so by doing a short meditation before sleep or by journaling our thoughts and feelings. Going to sleep with a calm mind is very important.
Yin and restorative yoga are often confused as being the same style of practice. Both practices are created to channel in the yin energy, which is the more calm, receptive and passive. They both help to calm the nervous system and bring stillness to the body and mind, holding the asana for longer, releasing resistance and tension. Although they share similarities, there are definitely differences.
WHAT IS YIN YOGA?
Yin yoga focuses on stretching and releasing tensions from the fascial networks, ligaments and joints. This is different than a more dynamic asana practice, which often places pressure on these and develops strength of stretches actively the muscles. The main physical benefits of yin yoga are to increase flexibility & mobility by holding passive asanas for a longer duration. During a yin practice, props are often used but it is not necessary for all asanas, this applies only if the person needs extra support. This can sometimes be needed because in yin yoga, asanas are held between 1-5 minutes, depending on the posture. Although a gentle practice, it still requires effort of the physical body. The rule is to never go to that place where you feel too uncomfortable in the stretch. Come back a little bit, so that you can hold the asana for longer. If there is pressure put on the body during the asana, injury can happen. And often it can take a while before it does, but if pressure continues, with time injury will occur.
WHAT IS RESTORATIVE YOGA?
Restorative yoga focuses solely on restoration of the body and mind. During this style of practice, we also hold the asanas for a longer duration just as in yin. But restorative yoga always includes the use of props to minimise any effort of the physical body & the mind. This is the key idea behind the practice, no effort so there is a greater focus on relaxation. Therefore restorative practice does not require physical effort. It is a suitable practice for everybody, including those who have an injury, weakness in the body or experience high levels of stress and anxiety. It is always best however to check with your GP before practicing, if you have any injuries.
Here are some examples of asanas done in both practices. It’s important to remember that some restorative option can also be applied to the practice of yin yoga.
EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA/