Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Breath Practice to Ease Holiday Depression

If you’re feeling a little down and blue this time of year, you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 18.8 Million adults, or 9.5% of the US population are affected by depression in any given year. Those of us who live in the Northern states are especially impacted by seasonal depression, sometimes referred to as SAD.

If depression is impacting your ability to function, a visit to your health care provider is in order. Yoga can, however, be an effective part of your recovery. Breath-centered movement, pranayama and meditation are all wonderful tools to bring your entire being--body, mind and heart--into balance.

I include the breath practice below in my series Overcoming Depression with Yoga. The word “krama” simply means segmented. In this practice, we segment the inhale portion of the breath into two parts, with a short pause both between each part and at the end of the inhale.

This very simple, very gentle practice increases energy, promotes balanced alertness, and over time can help ease depressive symptoms. Because this is a subtly energizing practice, please be sure to practice it earlier in the day; if you practice it shortly before bed, it may cause interruptions in sleep. For a wonderful practice to overcome insomnia, please see my earlier article titled “Tracy’s Sleeping Pill.”

Two Part Krama Inhale Breath Practice:
  1. Come to a comfortable sitting position.
  2. Notice how you feel before beginning to practice, in your body and in your breath. Then notice how you feel in your thoughts and emotions. Don’t worry if you don’t feel as you think you “should.” Just notice whatever comes to mind and be grateful for the awareness.
  3. Gradually, over 6 breaths, lengthen both your inhale and exhale, noticing the natural pause at the end of your inhale.
  4. Maintain the breath in Step 3 for at least 6 breath cycles. Then, break the inhale portion of your breath into two equal parts, with a natural pause both between parts and at the end of the inhale.
  5. Maintain the breath in Step 4 for at least 6 breath cycles. Then lengthen both the pause in the middle of the inhale and the pause that follows the inhale to a count of 2. You will maintain this count for the rest of the practice.
  6. Continue this breath for at least 12 breath cycles. Do not strain the breath. If you do start to feel strain, decrease the lengths of both pauses. Then continue with that new breath for the rest of the practice.
  7. Once you finish 12 or more complete breaths at Step #6, shorten the pauses to a natural length and take 6 more breaths.
  8. Release the pauses completely and breathe for several breaths. Then gradually allow the breath to come back to a normal rhythm.
  9. Notice any changes you feel after this practice, without trying to judge them as “good” or "bad".
I hope you have a wonderful , depression free holiday season!


Tracy Weber


Betty Hechtman said...

It's always good to have somethng in your mental medicine chest to deal with depression.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I agree with Betty--although at the moment I'm fortunately a bit too busy to feel depressed!

Tracy Weber said...

Thanks, ladies! And one can still be depressed and busy. You're just not as productive!

Chrystle Fiedler said...

I wrote about Seasonal Affective Disorder this week too! Great minds think alike I guess.

Tracy Weber said...

Yes, and in my yoga studio blog, I cited the same study, Chrystle!