Help! I’m in a funk and I can’t get out!

Perhaps it was the strong energy from the New Moon yesterday (July 18th) or because my hormones are a bit unbalanced at the moment, but whatever the cause I began to feel the dark cloud of funk-dom close in on me yesterday.  It began as  feeling kinda out of sync, nothing specific, just not my usual happy self.  The feeling has only intensified today.  Now if you’ve never found yourself falling head first into the abyss of funk-dom, then you may stop reading now.  For those of you who have experienced the insidious, very stubborn dark cloud descend upon you without so much as a warning, then this is for you!

The great thing about living a yogic lifestyle is that I don’t stay in that funky place for too long anymore.  I used to.  I have a tendency toward depression.  I’ve battled with bouts of depression all of my life, including a debilitating case of postpartum depression after the birth of our 3rd child.  It was this severe case of depression that led me to discover the trans formative powers of yoga. (I blogged about Postpartum Depression earlier this year)  Since my first yoga class ten years ago, I have devoted much of my life to deepening my personal practice which has given me the tools to help others.

Here’s my go to list to help me remove the dark cloud of funk-dom when it creeps in:

1.  I get on my yoga mat.  For some reason, when our negative thoughts begin to take over, the last thing we want to do is what we need to do to escape that thinking.  We may convince ourselves that we are too busy to practice.  But it just simply is not true. We make time every day for things far less important than our mental and spiritual health.  When I first started practicing, I thought that if I didn’t have an hour to devote to my practice, I shouldn’t even bother.  What I’ve come to learn, though, is that after years of consistent practice, my body automatically goes into a relaxed state when my butt first touches the mat.  After years of practice, I can get my body to switch over from that fight or flight state of stress over to a more peaceful, stress-less place just by sitting on my mat.  It truly doesn’t matter if you  have 10 minutes or an hour, just get out your mat and practice.  Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!

2.  I focus on my breath.  Even if you don’t have your yoga mat with you,  you always have your breath.  Sometimes,  just bringing your attention to your breath will help to bring you down a couple of notches.  I’ve blogged about alternate nostril breathing and extendend exhale breathing in past blogs.  Both are easily accessible and are great ways to reduce stressful thinking.

3.  I get out my gratitude journal.  This seemingly easy activity is so powerful.  Try this:  the next time you are in a funk, list 10 things you are truly grateful for at that moment and WHY.  For example, today while in the throes of my self created pity party, I looked over at the preciously wrapped gifts my children had bought a week ahead of time for my birthday next week.  In my journal, I wrote: “Today I am grateful for my thoughtful, generous, self-less, caring children because they fill my life with unspeakable joy and love.”   This is has been one of my favorite daily routines. The challenge is coming up with 10 truly unique things to be grateful each day! It’s fun to look back over past entries at the multitude of blessings you have in your life.

4.  Phone a friend.  Talking to a trusted, caring friend can help get you out of your head.  We all have friends that can “talk us off the ledge” at the times when we need it or friends that will  just quietly listen and support us when we need that.  I had the blessing to have coffee with a dear friend this morning.  Just being with someone who shares your similar views on life can be the boost you need to move you out of your funk.

5.  If all else fails, get outta Dodge!  Sometimes, just a change in scenery can help lift our spirits. Whether it is going for a drive,  going for a walk, or getting an ice cream cone, just getting away for awhile can help change your mood.  At around 4:30 this afternoon, I announced to the kids that we were going for ice cream before dinner!  An unexpected little treat can be so good for the soul!

I hope that the next time you are in a funk, these strategies will help you get out!

Namaste,

Lisa

“The Yogini Next Door”

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Alternate Nostril Breathing

A couple of weeks ago I woke up with a killer headache.  I think it was sinus mixed with a little hormonal fun.  The older I get, the more sensitive I have become to changes in weather, especially changes in atmospheric pressure.  When I turned 40, I also started to get monthly migraine level headaches.    Those of you who suffer from chronic headaches can relate to the debilitating effects that headaches have on your daily life.  However, through my daily yoga practice including the practice of Alternate Nostril Breathing,  I am able to control and alleviate my headache pain.

I don’t know why I continue to be amazed at the healing effects of yoga.  By practicing sun salutations, forward bends, and alternate nostril breathing, my headache lifted.

We do not breathe out of our nostrils equally.  In fact, we automatically alternate every 3 hours or so.  Scientists have discovered that when our right nostril is dominate,  the electrical activity is greater on the left side of the brain.  Alternately, when our left nostril is dominate, the electrical activity is greater on the right side of the brain.  By practicing Alternate Nostril Breathing,  you can balance the breathe so that both sides of the brain are working equally.  This allows you to activate and access your whole brain.

12 benefits of alternate nostril breathing:

1: Revitalizes you:

A few rounds of alternate nostril breathing is a quick pick me up if you are feeling flat, tired or even stressed. It provides your body with a much needed dose of extra energy.

2: Improves brain function:

When you mind is dull – concentration and clarity is poor.  Alternate nostril breathing brings equal amounts of oxygen to both sides of the brain for improved brain function.  Five minutes of alternate nostril breathing before an exam or interview is a great way to access your whole brain for improved performance.

3: Cleanses your lungs:

A daily five minute practice morning and night of alternate nostril breathing is great way to remove stale air and impurities from the bottom of your lungs.  Did you know that 70% of our body’s waste products are eliminated through our lungs?!

4: Calms an agitated mind:

I’m prone to worrying.  A few minutes of focused alternate nostril breathing is helpful (for me) in calming my  “over thinking” mind.   The ancient yogis believe that if you can regulate your breath, then you can control your mind.

5: Merges the left “thinking” brain and right “feeling brain:

Alternate nostril breathing optimizes both sides of your brain so you can access your whole brain, and all the benefits that go with it.

The flip side of course is, single nostril breathing can be used to activate, just the left”thinking” or just right “feeling” side of your brain for specific situations.

Try it out next time you need to drive your car.  Cover your left nostril with your thumb and breathe only through your right nostril for one minute.  This should keep you more alert when driving.

6: Encourage a calmer emotional state:

In times of emotional distress and upset, a few rounds of mindful nostril breathing will soften the intensity of over reactive emotional states.  The longer you practice, the more stable your thinking, and the calmer your emotions will become.

7: Improves sleep:

If you can’t sleep at night lay on your right hand side, gently close your right nostril with your right thumb and breath through your left nostril.  This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which will calm you down and slow your heart rate.

8: Great preparation for meditation:

Alternate nostril breathing is a simple little trick that can be practiced for a few minutes before you begin your meditation practice.  It’s a very easy way to help you find your meditation groove.

9: Soothes your nervous system:

By focusing on your breath and deepening it, your brain will register this message and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system.  You have effectively switched your nervous system from a stressed response, into a relaxation response.   Single left nostril breathing (by closing your right nostril) will direct the flow of oxygen and energy to the right hemisphere of your brain, allowing once again, for the parasympathetic nervous system to be switched on.  Gosh, your breath and nose is very clever.

10: Regulates  the cooling and warming cycles of the body:

Left nostril is feminine, nurturing, calm and cooling.  Right nostril is masculine, heat, competitive and force.  Favouring one nostril more than the other can effect the heat or coolness of your body.

11: Clears and boosts your energy channels:

Slightly forced alternate nostril breathing improves and directs the flow of energy throughout your body – preventing sluggishness.  It oxygenates your blood and allows the energy (prana) in your body to be strong and flowing.

12: Enhances rest and relaxation:

A restless mind cannot relax.  Alternate nostril breathing melts away an imbalances between the right and left hemisphere of your brain and calms your thinking.  This is perfect for helping you access rest and relaxation far more efficiently.

An alternate nostril breathing exercise – purifying breath:

Step one: Use right thumb to close off right nostril.

Step two: Inhale slowly through left nostril

Step three: Pause for a second

Step four: Now close left nostril with ring finger and release thumb off right nostril

Step five: Exhale through your right nostril

Step six: Now, inhale through right nostril

Step seven: Pause

Step eight: Use thumb to close of right nostril

Step nine: Breathe out through left nostril

Step ten: This is one round. Start slowly with 1 or 2 rounds and gradually increase.Never force.Sit quietly for a few moments after you have finished.

I continue to be grateful and humbled by the healing power of yoga.  If you suffer from chronic headaches, anxiety, or depression, I encourage you to give yoga and alternate nostril breathing a try.  I will be teaching alternate nostril breathing at my next yoga workshop in the fall.

With love and gratitude,

Lisa

“The Yogini Next Door”