Most of us understand that mental health is hugely important and it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves. Because it seems to have taken so long for mainstream doctors to accept this fact it seems the general population is taking time to catch up as well. My goal is to bring an easy-to-understand explanation of how taking responsibility for the mind, body, spirit connection with purposeful action can help mental health and their whole being.
It’s already proven that moving the body increases endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin and all the feel-good hormones! I understand those with depression often find it hard to exercise or do yoga. Even the words can be triggering. Many people convince themselves they can’t do yoga. “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.” To me that’s like saying. “I’m just too dirty to take a bath.” It doesn’t make any sense! You do yoga to increase flexibility, mobility, and balance.
I believe that everybody has a yoga body. The type of yoga I love the most is Kundalini yoga because it is accessible to most everyone. It focuses on spinal health and flexibility in the spine. If you think about it, all the most important functions we need to live run through the spinal column. Vital nerves, arteries and spinal fluid need to flow freely to have the brain and body function at their best.
This type of yoga also does a great job incorporating mindfulness into each practice. This will help clients be more in their body and less in the headspace. I love to add mindful guided meditation directed towards bringing awareness to the energy and feelings of the body. When you are aware of how you feel you take your power back to transform lower emotions into better feeling ones.
My teaching style explains why we are doing what we are doing so that the students understand the benefits of each movement. I often speak about the science of chakra system which are the energy centers in the body connected to organs, functions, meridians, feelings, and emotions. The Kundalini Kriyas are often designed to open the energetic flow of the chakras.
For example, a client with depression may have a difficult time with the lower chakra system. The root chakra is connected to feelings of safety and security. It is where the fight or flight instincts for survival are stored. Right above that is the sacral Chakra where we hold our willpower, ambition, creativity, sexuality, and ability to persist. The next chakra is the solar plexus in the area above the belly button and that is where self-esteem and personality live.
If these chakras are out of balance a person can become lethargic and sometimes even connected to overeating because they are trying to ground themselves with the feeling of being full. A Kundalini set for depression will focus on a gentle practice that is able to bring mindfulness into their bodies while increasing energy flow. I teach folks how to activate the energy in the body by stimulating the chakras and the systems connected to them with movement most everyone can do.
Even if you have limited mobility, closing your eyes and visualizing yourself doing the posture/practice will give your brain some of the same benefits as if you were doing them physically! The mind, body, spirit connection is quite magical!
We will address the whole body and use pranayama breathing to increase the heart rate and energy flow. One of the best ways to get out of the head and into the body is to focus on the breath. Another way to address the intimidation of ‘meditation’ is to offer mantra meditation songs with hand mudras designed for specific topic we are working on. In these mantra meditations we use a variety of specific instructions for the body and the mind to keep focused.
This takes the pressure off just lying there and not thinking! I don’t know about you but lying there trying not to think has the opposite effect for me. That’s perfect conditions for a whole lot of monkey mind to get going!
Which is why the instructions for mantra meditation help me get in the zone and out of my head. It also has health benefits such as applying Root lock/Muladhara Bonda which means we squeeze the perineum, sex organs and pelvic bowl muscles pulling them up and in holding the root lock! This is very healthy to do with both women and men as we age.
Next, we do hand mudras designed to stimulate meridians connected to the body’s internal systems. We then close the eyes and bring our gaze to the third eye, the space where the intuition lives. Not only does the third eye gaze connect to intuition, but it also puts pressure on the optic nerve connected to the pituitary gland.
The pituitary is the master gland that stimulates the feel-good hormones! We do all these things at the same time we chant and sing mantra songs. Singing stimulates the vagus nerve, one of the biggest nerves in the body and the only one that connects the gut to the brain. We all know by now how gut health greatly affects brain function. Singing, chanting, humming are all wonderful ways to stimulate the vagus nerve!
Most of the practices will focus on bringing the chakras into alignment and increasing energy inside the body in different ways. It is designed to increase flow and flexibility in the spinal column where all the nerves and spinal fluid need to flow freely for optimal brain health. The more flow you have going to the brain the better the brain is going to function and the better you feel. My yoga teacher Jeanie O’Neill often reiterated that you are only as young as your spine is supple. Makes a lot of sense if you think about it!
The practice for anxiety may be a little more physical and pull in the breath of fire to burn off some of the excess energy in the chakras causing anxiousness. The practice of guided meditation or Yoga Nidra will help bring the consciousness of the mind inside the body. This practice truly helps a person feel their energy inside the body and teaches them how to check in with what’s going on inside. Allowing each yogi to better understand how to help themselves feel better in their body. Yoga Nidra is proven to calm the nervous system while affecting the theta and beta waves of the brain.
Pulling this all together means when the body feels good, the brain feels better, and that can bring you to a peaceful state of being. Mind, body, spirit connection is not just a popular phrase. It is a real and true part of living your best life. If one of these areas is out of balance so are the rest of them. It is why I love Kundalini Yoga and Kriya meditations so much. It truly addresses all the areas we need to feel good about ourselves.
Yoga is not a religion. It is personal mind, body, and spirit practice. When I speak of connecting to spirit. I mean we are connecting to our own higher energy. If you choose to bring your preferred religion into your practice that is okay too. However, when I teach, we usually talk about connecting to our own higher self. Which is basically the part of you that knows better. The part of your spirit that is the inner voice of love, the pure soul inside of you.
Talking with a trained mental health practitioner can help guide you in the direction of where you need to heal. It can shine a light on the area you most need to focus on to feel better. Yet deep down we know that nobody can heal you but you.
Getting to know yourself better means quieting the mind, checking in with the spirit to see what it is you truly need. Then trust yourself to be able to make those changes by taking action towards healing.
The daily practice of Kundalini yoga helps facilitate self-awareness, physical movement, and connection to yourself that truly benefits mental health. It has been a life changing experience for me, and I had to share with you!
Much love and many blessings,
CMT – 500RYT
Spirit River Yoga and Massage LLC
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