Warm up your winter blues with this yoga routine to help you beat seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression related to seasonal changes, like lack of sunlight. Most people with SAD typically see symptoms from fall through winter, and then start to feel better around springtime.
Signs and symptoms of SAD include moodiness, oversleeping, appetite changes (like more cravings for carbs), weight gain, and low energy. (1)
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While SAD is typically treated with light therapy, and sometimes medication and psychotherapy, yoga is a natural method that can also help. Staying active during winter months is essential to combatting symptoms of SAD, and mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation can improve depressive symptoms. (2)
This yoga routine is a mix of both energizing and restorative poses to help you to kick SAD to the curb. Energizing yoga poses like gentle backbends, inversions, and standing poses help to get the heart rate pumping, increasing circulation and releasing happy-mood endorphins. It also requires an attention to breath, which can bring the mind into a meditative state to enhance the mind-body connection. Restorative yoga poses help bring the body out of the stressful fight-or-flight state and into a calm, peaceful, rest-and-digest state. (3)
Practice this yoga routine daily, preferably first thing in the morning, to help alleviate symptoms of SAD. You’ll need a yoga mat, bolster or long pillow, and a yoga block for this routine.
8 Endorphin-Boosting Yoga Poses
Supported Fish | 2 min
This restorative backbend helps to relieve stress associated with SAD and opens up the chest and shoulders.
- Begin by placing a bolster or pillow down so that it runs up and down your mat.
- Sit in front of it with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Keep your hips on the floor as you slowly lower your back and head onto the bolster.
- Extend your arms out to the sides with your palms facing up. Straighten your legs down the mat and let your toes fall outward.
- Close your eyes and relax for two minutes.
Upward Salute | 5 breaths
This pose will help energize and awaken you!
- Begin standing at the top of your mat with your feet hip-width distance apart. Bring a slight bend into your knees and draw your navel up and in towards your spine.
- Inhale to sweep your arms out and up towards the sky. Bring your palms to touch overhead.
- Keep your neck long and gaze up with your eyes. Feel the sides on your body lengthen and draw energy up from the bottoms of your feet. Smile!
- Hold for five slow, steady breaths in and out of your nose.
Forward Fold with Ragdoll Bind | 8 breaths
Standing in this calming forward fold position reverses blood flow towards the brain, improving circulation and energizing your body. It also relieves winter stiffness in the hips, hamstrings, and lower back.
- Stand on your mat with your feet hip-width distance apart. Bring your palms together in front of your chest and engage your abs. Take an inhale as you lengthen your spine.
- Bring a big bend into your knees and exhale to fold forward with a flat back. Reach your hands to the mat and let your torso rest on your thighs.
- Bend your elbows to cross your forearms and tuck each pinky finger into the opposite elbow crook.
- Let your head and shoulders hang heavy and sway side-to-side slowly as you hold for eight breaths.
Down Dog | 8 breaths
This classic yoga pose reverses blood flow towards the brain to increase energy, while also stretching the back of your body.
- Start in a high plank position. Stack your shoulders over your wrists and spread your fingers wide.
- Take an inhale, then exhale to lift your hips up towards the sky to come into an upside down V-shape.
- Make sure your back is straight, bending your knees as much as you need in order to keep it from rounding.
- Breathe slowly in and out of your nose as you hold for eight breaths.
Warrior 2 | 8 breaths per side
Bring out your inner winter warrior with this pose that will get your blood circulating, heart rate pumping, and thighs burning as you get a nice release of happy-hormones.
- Stand sideways on your mat with your feet out wide and parallel. Engage your abs.
- Turn your right toes to point toward the top of the mat. Reach your arms out wide with your wrists in line with your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and reach through your fingertips.
- Bend your right knee, bringing your thigh parallel to the ground. Keep your shoulders stacked above your hips.
- Hold for eight slow breaths in and out of your nose. Then, switch sides.
Bound Bridge | 8 breaths
This gentle, heart-opening inversion provides an energizing release of endorphins.
- Lie on your mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Reach your arms down alongside your body with your palms face down.
- Inhale to slowly lift your hips up towards the sky to come into a bridge pose. Then, interlace your fingers behind your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Draw your lower belly up and in to engage your abs. Hold for eight breaths.
Supine Twist | 8 breaths per side
This rejuvenating twist restores the body and mind while releasing tension in the spine.
- Lie on your mat with your legs long.
- Bring your right knee into your chest, interlacing your hands around the top of your right shin. Flex both feet and squeeze the right knee up towards your right shoulder.
- Take a deep breath in, then exhale as you use your left hand to cross your right thigh across your body to come into a twist. Straighten your right arm out to the side with your palm facing up. Look over your right shoulder.
- Relax into the twist for eight breaths, then hug both knees back into your chest and switch sides.
Legs Up the Wall | 3-5 min
This relaxing inversion brings fresh oxygen to the brain, relaxing you into a state of peace and ease.
- Place your yoga mat with the short way sitting against a wall.
- Sit close to the wall, then swing your legs up the wall and lower your back to the mat. Bend your knees and place your feet on the wall. Press into your feet to lift your hips up and slide the block underneath your hips. The closer you are to the wall, the deeper the stretch will feel.
- Straighten your legs up the wall and reach your arms out to the sides with your palms facing up. Close your eyes and surrender for three to five minutes.
(Your Next Workout: 8 Stretches To Melt Away Winter Stiffness)