Himalayan Siddha Akshar, renowned author and founder of Akshar Yoga Research and Development Centre, in a recent interview with HT Lifestyle for International Yoga Day 2023, talked about specific yoga asanas for mental health.
He stressed the importance of aligning our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and surroundings. He highlighted that being fully present in the current moment is a significant step towards improving our mental health.
Akshar emphasized that our mental well-being plays a pivotal role in our overall appearance, surpassing the impact of our diet and physical fitness. He underlined the necessity of recognizing and prioritizing mental health to lead a fulfilling life.
He also emphasized that the mind and how we engage with it are central to various practices such as yoga, spirituality, meditation, and mindful living.
Recent years have seen an upsurge in research into meditative practices, especially yoga. Findings show that yoga helps with mental health, often reducing the risk of mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, body image issues, chronic stress, etc.
In some cases, yoga for mental health recovery is practiced in in-patient or rehabilitation centers to aid patients availing mental health care treatment and recovering from addictions, behavioral disorders, or memory disorders.
Nonetheless, given the easily accessible nature of generic yoga practices, yoga is often undertaken as a daily non-medical “self-care practice” to increase mindfulness, reduce the impact of small everyday stressors, and maintain our mental health.
For International Yoga Day 2023, to aid in this seamless improvement of mental well-being, Akshar recommended five yoga asanas for mental health:
1. Sukhasana (Happy Pose):
Start by sitting in Dandasana with both legs extended. Fold your left leg and tuck it inside the right thigh, then fold your right leg and tuck it inside the left thigh. Place your palms on your knees and assume the Siddha Mudra. Ensure an upright posture.
2. Bakasana (Crane Pose):
Begin in Samasthiti (or basic standing posture) with your palms flat on the ground in front of your feet. Spread your fingers forward and slightly apart. Bend your elbows and position your knees just below your armpits. Shift your weight forward onto your arms, lifting both feet off the ground. Bring your feet together and maintain balance while keeping your arms as straight as possible. Focus your gaze on one spot and hold this pose.
3. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend):
Sit in Dandasana with your knees slightly bent and legs extended in front of you. Inhale and raise your arms upward, maintaining a straight spine. Exhale and bend forward from the hips, bringing your upper body toward your lower body.
Use your fingers to grip your big toes and attempt to touch your knees with your nose. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
4. Chakrasana (Wheel Pose):
Lie on your back with your feet firmly planted on the ground and your knees bent. Bend your arms at the elbows and position your palms facing upward. Place your palms on the floor on either side of your head and rotate your arms at the shoulders.
Inhale deeply, apply pressure to your legs and palms, and lift your entire body in an arch. Allow your head to relax as it gently falls behind you, maintaining equal weight distribution on all four limbs. Continue holding this position for 15 to 20 seconds.
5. Balasana (Child’s Pose):
Begin by kneeling on the mat and placing your heels together. Inhaling, raise your arms above your head. Exhale and bend your upper body forward, bringing your forehead to the floor. Rest your pelvis on your heels while ensuring a straight spine. Avoid rounding your back.
By incorporating these five asanas for healthy minds into your daily routine, you can take proactive steps toward improving your mental health.
Remember, nurturing your mental well-being is just as crucial as maintaining your physical health. So, make it a priority to cultivate mindfulness, engage in self-care practices (like yoga), and embrace the present moment to lead a fulfilling and balanced life.