LIVING

Using Yoga To Battle Seasonal Affective Disorder

01/16/2015 05:35 EST | Updated 01/19/2015 10:59 EST
Linda Malone

Feeling down about the weather is more likely to make you curl up into a tiny ball rather than stretch out your arms and legs.

Seasonal affective disorder — or SAD — is a type of clinical depression that affects people during the fall and winter months. And if you're experiencing SAD, it may be more than just feeling crummy about freezing temperatures and dark days. This mental illness can even change your appetite, weight and sleeping patterns.

Treatments for SAD vary depending on the person, but taking 10 minutes out of the day for yourself is a good way for anyone to de-stress. Not only does exercise improve your energy levels and mood, but studies have shown people with SAD who exercise are more likely to feel better about the "winter blues," according to PsychCentral.com

Linda Malone, founder of Blu Matter Project, a nonprofit that offers free yoga classes for people suffering from SAD and other mental health issues, says yoga is one outlet that can slowly help you improve your focus and mood.

"Alongside a healthy lifestyle and diet, mindfulness practices are strongly correlated with both positive structural and functional changes in the brain," she says.

Three years ago, Malone's younger brother committed suicide after struggling with bipolar disorder. On a hunt to understand her brother's condition, she created a space for people to practice yoga at Toronto studio IAM Yoga.

Below, Malone shows us three moves that will help with both creating a clear mind and working towards battling SAD.

"The postures improve circulation, the breathing oxygenates the brain and the final posture supports and stabilizes the nervous system (which tempers your stress response)," she says.

  • Sun Salutation Step 1
    A simple and opening sequence that helps to awaken muscle groups and joints while also stretching out the front and back lines of the body.
  • Sun Salutation Step 2
    It can be practiced anytime during the day, but mornings are ideal.
  • Sun Salutation Step 3
    This move helps circulate blood and lymphatic fluids to help you focus and start your day.
  • Sun Salutation Step 4
    Repeat 3 to 7 times.
  • Pranayama (Breath Work) Step 1
    Stand with feet hip-width apart, bend your knees slightly and keep your arms at your sides. Loosen the fingers and hands.
  • Pranayama (Breath Work) Step 2
    Inhale deeply and quickly through the nose and swing your arms up towards the ceiling. Exhale quickly and deeply through the mouth and swing your arms down.
  • Pranayama (Breath Work) Step 3
    This breathing sequence will stimulate circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid in your body. It will improve your focus and clarity, while the breathing will leave you feeling elated and uplifted.
  • Pranayama (Breath Work) Step 4
    Find a natural rhythm, and repeat approximately 30 times.
  • Legs Up The Wall
    Lie against a wall and extend your legs up toward the ceiling. Support the back of the head and neck if necessary. If you don't have a traditional yoga blanket you can use a towel, even your jacket or a sweater.
    Hold this position for two minutes and practice controlled inhalations and exhalations.
    This posture will reverse the flow of blood away from the lower body and will stimulate circulation around the internal organs, face and brain. You will feel grounded and calm.

10 Facts About Seasonal Affective Disorder