Yoga for Depression Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 9

Coming to Center

25 min - Practice
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Its difficult to feel centered without a reference. Using Tadasana (Mountain Pose) as our reference, Denise guides us through a dynamic practice, guiding us to find our center within the movement.
What You'll Need: Mat, Block

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(ocean waves) Welcome back. We all have days where we wake up on the wrong side of the bed or just, for some reason, feel a little off. So, this practice is designed for those moments where, at the end of the day, or at the start of your day, you're wanting to come back to really finding center. For this practice, you'll need at least one block, and have that handy. We'll start off on our backs.

So, as you lie back, take in a big inhalation and as you exhale, scan through your body, noticing what you're bringing onto your mat in this moment. Tap into your body's sensations. Notice what your mood, your energy are like, and notice what your thoughts are, how quickly or how slowly they come and go. Then connect for a moment with the reason that you are coming to your practice. How would you like to feel as we finish up?

Use whatever comes to mind to set an intention for your practice and whenever your mind wanders, bring it back to the reason that you're on your mat. Take in a big, deep breath, and as you exhale, bring your awareness to the back of your body and where it rests on your mat or on the floor underneath you. Notice the slight pressure at the back of the head, the shoulders, the base of the spine, backs of the legs, the heels. But then notice too the places that come away from the mat, where you could catch a breeze. So, the nice curve of your neck and the space between your low back and the mat.

Then notice here, really subtly, as you breathe in, there's just a little more space between your low back and the mat, and as you breathe out, the low back releases into your mat. So, we'll start to exaggerate that as we breathe in. Inhale and find just a hint of a back bend in your low back and then, as you exhale, reach your tailbone toward your heels, flattening out that natural curve. So, as we breath in, we start to tilt the pelvis, and as we breathe out, we take it the other way, releasing your low back to the floor. Inhale and exhale.

On your next inhalation, reach your arms up overhead and notice the effect that that has. How does that take you off-center? If you're like me, it tends to arch my back just a little bit more, so as you exhale here, draw the ribs in towards your body just a bit more and reach the tailbone towards the heels a little more vigorously, so we return to find our center, and we'll be looking for this throughout the rest of the practice. Bring your knees in toward your chest and then roll over to one side, finding your way to all fours. Grab ahold of your block and place it in between the thighs, about midway between your knees and your hips, hands underneath your shoulders, knees underneath your hips.

As you breathe in here, we'll play with that tilt of the pelvis as you draw your shoulders back, exaggerating the curve of the low back and then, as you exhale, we'll take that the other way. Inhale, shoulders draw back, we tilt the hips forward, and then exhale. We squeeze out the breath, round the spine and notice how the block moves from front to back. So, as we exhale, and engage the thighs, the block shifts slightly and see if you can, as you draw your shoulders back, reach the block back behind you. Then as you exhale and draw in, the block reaches slightly more forward.

Inhale, we find the back bend. Think about the inner-thighs spinning towards the back of your mat, and then exhale. We bring the block back in more toward your center. Then trying to keep the low back pretty stable, see if you find that action with your inner thighs. So, the inner-thighs spin towards the back of your mat, keeping the low back really wide.

Then here, once again, we open up the shoulders, and then press into your mid and upper back. So, low back staying pretty solid. Keeping the block right where it's at, curl your toes under, pick up your knees off the mat and take it back to a bent-knee version of downward-facing dog. Inhale here, press the tops of your thighs further back, and then start to reach down through the heels. Can you still connect with that action of reaching the block back behind you?

We're engaging the inner thighs, and then slowly walk your hands back to a standing forward fold. Take in a big inhalation, and use the breath to make your way up to standing. Arms come up and around, and exhale, hands together in front of your heart. As you stand here, try to find that position that we found on our backs. So, that nice curve of the back of your neck, slight curve at the low back, crown of the head reaching up towards the ceiling and grounding through the feet at the same time.

Inhale here, keep the block as we reach our arms up overhead and exhale, lift, and fold forward. Inhale, lift up halfway, exhale, fold, then rise up all the way, exhaling your hands to your heart. Inhale, reach up, exhale, lift and fold. Try to still reach the block back behind you, inhale, exhale, and inhale, exhale, fold. Rise up all the way, hands back to your heart.

Breathe in, reach your arms back up, exhale and fold. This time walk your hands back out to the high push-up, or plank pose, and try to find that nice posture that we had standing in Tadasana in a mountain pose and on our backs. So, the crown of the head reaches forward, the tailbone reaches towards your heels. Can you see that spinning that block up towards the ceiling. It feels like the low back is really wide, the outer hips wrap down, inner thighs wrap up, and you're remembering to breathe.

Gazing just out in front of you to keep the neck long. Then exhale, take it back to downward-facing dog. Walk your hands back in towards your feet. Inhale, lift halfway. Exhale, fold.

Rise up all the way, and then get empty, hands to your heart. Inhale, reach your arms up. Exhale, lift and fold. Block still reaching back behind you. Inhale, lift halfway.

Walk your hands back out to plank pose. Fine to take the knees down if you'd like. We're still reaching the block away so the inner thighs are engaged, as you bend the elbows to lower down. Breathe in, and press away from your mat. Here still block reaching up, inner thighs active, and then all the way back to downward-facing dog.

Walk the hands back towards your feet. Breathe in, lift up halfway. Exhale to fold. Rise up with your breath, and exhale, hands to your heart. Set the block off to the side for the moment, and walk your way up to the front of your mat.

We'll try to find those same actions and engagement that we had with the block, so imagine the block between your thighs as we're reaching the thighs back behind you. Tailbone reaches down. So we create space for that nice, long spine, as you have extension all the way up through the crown of your head. Inhale, reach your arms up. Exhale and fold forward.

Breathe in, lift halfway. Take your hands to the mat. Step back into plank pose. Fine to take the knees, or simply bend the elbows as you lower, gaze out in front of you. See if you can find your mountain pose here.

Long neck, happy low back. Then flatten out your feet. Press away from the mat. Shoulders draw back, and exhale all the way back. Downward-facing dog.

Listening for the breath. Keep the low back long, inner thighs reaching towards the back of your mat. Then empty out all your breath, bend your knees, look forward, and you can hop or step your way up to the front of your mat. Inhale, we lift halfway. Exhale to fold.

Rise up with your breath all the way. Exhale, hands to your heart. Inhale, reach up. Exhale, fold forward. Breathe in, lift halfway.

Exhale, hands down. Step back to plank pose. Here, trying to find those actions and the engagement of the inner thigh. Long neck, happy low back. Then drop your heels over to the right.

Step the top foot out. Find a little lift in the side body as we start to extend that top arm up towards the ceiling. Remembering to breath, maybe gazing up at that thumb. If you're breathing easy here, perhaps trying to find your mountain pose, Tadasana, as you stack one foot on top of the other. Reaching a little higher.

Low back happy as you reach the tailbone towards your heels. Crown of the head away from you. Then make your way back down, and downward facing dog. For the second side, we shift back to our high pushup or plank pose. Drop the heels over to the left.

Top foot steps out and we open up across the chest, reaching up towards the ceiling. Find that lift in the hip, and maybe staying here, or stacking up the right foot over the left. Imagine that wide low back, with the inner thighs reaching back behind you, tailbone reaching towards the heels, crown of the head reaching away. Make your way back to center. Downward-facing dog.

Bend your knees, look forward, and hop or step your way up. Inhale, lift halfway. Exhale, fold. Rise up all the way. Empty out, hands to your heart.

Bring your hands to the tops of the thighs and drop the thighs down towards the mat, coming into chair pose. Finding Tadasana here, so the tailbone reaches towards the floor, but not so much that it feels tucked underneath, and then being mindful not to find that backbend, but finding your center. And exhale, fold forward. Inhale, lift halfway. Exhale, plant your hands, hop or step your way back.

Option to take your knees or bend at your elbows as you keep them right by your sides. We breath in, we press away, and exhale, all the way back, downward-facing dog. Inhale, take your right leg up into the air. Then as you exhale, step it through. Wiggle the toes up there until we have the knee pretty much over the ankle.

We'll come into a high lunge twist here, planting your left hand onto the mat. Extend your right arm out and start to revolve. We extend up towards the ceiling. Find that width across the chest and across the back. An option to stay here, or if you're breathing easy, come on to the outer edge of that back foot and float the top foot into your side plank.

Same idea of finding center. We reach the crown of the head away from the tailbone. Tailbone reaches towards your heels. Then back to center, downward-facing dog. Taking a breath, extend up through the left leg.

Exhale, step it through. Solid through your right hand, the left arm extends out to the side, and then we find the twist, extending across the collarbones. Drawing that left thigh in, pressing the back leg straight back. Feeling solid here. The option to stay here, or if it feels like a good idea, coming on to the outer edge of that back foot.

Inhaling, and exhale, stacking the feet. Gazing up at the thumb, and finding center. Crown of the head reaching away from the tailbone. The nice natural curves of your spine. Bring the hands back to the mat, and take it back, downward-facing dog.

Shift your shoulders back over your wrists. You have the option here to take the knees down if you feel like you need to take a little break. Or perhaps without changing anything, keeping the spine happy and long, floating just the right heel an inch off the mat. Then exhale, release it down. And second side.

And release it down. Drop the knees. Rest your forearms to the mat. Think about bringing the arms parallel to each other. The palms are flat.

We're on the entire forearm and the elbow. Then stepping back here to a forearm plank. We drop the hips so the body's in one straight line. Shoulders drawing back, belly working, ribs drawing in to try and find center. Remembering to breath, and maybe staying here, or dropping the heels to the right, coming into a twist.

Nothing else changes except the feet. Back to center, and then to the other side. Make your way back to center. Drop your knees, drop your belly, and we come into sphinx. Shoulders drop back, collarbone's wide.

Engaging the low belly to keep the low back happy, and breathing. Walk your hands back. Come up onto your hands and knees. Draw your toes together. Take the knees a little wider.

Encounter all the hard work that you've been doing with a nice, juicy child's pose. Widen out your low back with the breath. Take the breath into your back ribs. Move it all the way up into your shoulders. Walk your hands in, roll your way up, and spin your way around, taking the legs out in front, finding your way into staff pose, Dandasana.

Hands right by your sides, flexing through your feet, lifting your heart. As you exhale, walk your hands out and fold forward. Notice that point where your low back wants to round. Resist that by tipping the hips and engaging the muscles in your legs. Inhale to get longer, and exhale, we ease in.

Inhale lengthening, and exhale folding. Perhaps grabbing ahold of the shins, the ankles, or the feet. Trying to keep the width of the front body, shoulders drawing back. And exhale fold. Walk your hands back in.

Bring your right knee in towards your chest. Allow the sole of the foot to come to your inner thigh as the knee opens out to the side. Keep your extended leg active. Toes are flexed and pointing up towards the sky. Hands out by your sides.

And we lift, finding your center as you sit. Wide across the front body. Low back is happy and long. Crown of the head reaching away from the floor. As you exhale, trying to keep that long spine as you walk forward.

Inhale lengthen, and exhale ease in. Inhale get longer, and exhale fold. Bring your hands back in towards your body as you roll up. Extending your right leg, drawing your left knee in. Pressing down into your mat through the sitting bones, rising up through the crown of the head, and then we allow the foot to come to the inner thigh as the knee opens out to the side.

Find center in your seat. Try to find evenness in both sitting bones as you lift up and extend through your spine. Exhale. We breath in to the fold. Inhale, get longer.

Exhale, and fold. Inhale lengthen. Exhale ease in. Breathing, and folding. Walk your hands in towards your body, through the legs.

Then spin around. Roll back down onto your mat. We'll create a figure four, right ankle over the left knee. Inhale here, thread the needle, arms coming through. Feet are active and flexed.

Take in a deep breath and exhale. Maybe come up off your mat with the head and shoulders. Opening a little more deeply in your hip. Release, switching sides, and recrossing. So left ankle over your right knee.

Flexing through the feet. Inhale, exhale, we thread the needle. Arms come through. Interlace your fingers back behind the thigh, or maybe out in front of the shin. Breathe in and exhale.

Bring it in a little closer, maybe coming up off the mat. And release. Slowly unwinding the legs, and placing yourself back where we started, and noticing any differences. Allowing the efforts of your practice to bring you to center. In your mind, recalling a time from when you were young, maybe even before you had words, when you looked at the world with wonder, and life was an adventure.

Know that coming to center isn't about discovering something that you've never had. It's about coming back to something that's always been there, coming back to who you truly are. Know that this is why we do yoga, to come back to this place time and again. Whenever you get busy, or distracted, or down, you can come back to your mat, back to your practice, pause, and find your breath. Feel free to linger here as long as you'd like.

Or if you'd like to come to your side, pause. Use your arms to make your way up to a comfortable seat, taking a few minutes in a seated meditation. Connected with who you truly are. Thank you for joining me today. Namaste.

The light in me honors the light in you.

Comments

As much as I enjoyed the practice, I didn't think there was enough correlation between the practice and depression. Feeling a little off is different than depression.
Thank you for your comment Judy. You are absolutely correct, there is a difference between feeling a little off and depression! The idea of finding center, both physically and emotionally, relates to creating mindful awareness of mood states that change as we move through our day. The more we find a state of harmony or center, our body systems follow suit. Each time we make it to a relaxing savasana, we reinforce that state and therefore can create a pathway out of a depressed mood. Check out DrDanSiegel.com for exciting research about the idea of mindful integration.
The grief restorative actually opened me up emotionally. Definitely what I wanted/needed. This practice, especially the side planks, provided me a way to use my strength to put today into focus. Much appreciated. 
You’re welcome David Goldstein! Side planks and balance poses require our focus and bring us into the now.  I am happy you found your focus.  Namaste, Denise 

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