As I ventured into Part Three of this yoga series, I began to see something pop up again and again… The mood is vital to our living a happy life. Psych Central, The Journal of Depression and Anxiety, Psychologist World and many more agree that happy people live healthier lives and make better decisions. Through that, happy folks bring more positive experiences into their lives. The sources also agree that our mood affects our happiness. It takes mere seconds for even the most fortunate people I know to go from beaming with joy to sour-faced and irritated. That’s where we need resilience.
This is due to the vast amount of stimuli that can affect our mood. We might get cut off in traffic, receive a bad review at work, hear a song or get a whiff of a random smell and that can trigger a mood shift. Even when I’m happy overall in life, I can lose the feeling for days at a time if I don’t address my current mood of anger or sadness or fear or anxiety.
When my current mood takes centre stage, all my focus shifts there. If the mood is a slight shift, I don’t tend to notice, and both the emotion and my overall happiness can coexist within me. But the moment my emotion moves to a place of being the focus; then it tends to hide my happiness from me.
Yoga for Mood Swings
Since yoga was doing so well for me in other areas, I began looking at Adriene’s videos on mood. I’d already used hers for Parts One and Two, so this was a natural place to search. To my surprise, she had several options!
I decided to try Yoga for Mood Swings. While there were options, this one called to me most because in the description she mentioned life’s little annoyances and how they can shift our mood fast.
She also said the stress hormones and how yoga can help. The most commonly discussed is the stress hormone Cortisol. According to the American Psychology Association, this hormone is natural to the body and helps regulate certain systems, but when there is too much, it can cause adverse effects. When too much cortisol is in the system, it’s time to give it the boot.
Adriene begins with a suggestion to let go and not worry about ‘doing it right’ for this practice. Her focus is more on the body’s needs, so she suggests allowing whatever is going on to exist. To do this, she keeps the practitioner in Sukhāsana or Easy pose for longer than I found in other videos. The easy pose is the pose you most often see in meditation – a cross legged sitting position. There is a heavy focus on breath and listening to the body rather than movement.
As she brings the hands into play, she gives the option to have soft hands or active hands. This was helpful because when we’re angry, we may want more pressure and use of our muscles. I found that personally, I was able to release anger more efficiently when I maintained active muscles. On the contrary, when I’m sad or depressed, keeping my muscles soft assisted releasing those emotions more effectively. The heavy focus on listening to our body in this video made a significant difference in the way I worked through my current mood.
Another aspect of this practice that I felt helped me was the release portion. Rather than suggest the practitioners release slowly, she suggested doing what felt right at that moment. It might be jerky and fast, slow and steady, or whatever we need to release our emotion. When I was angry, the quicker and firmer movements helped. When I was sad, the slower releases from poses was most effective.
We then moved into Downward Dog, then into Walk the Dog. The walking kept my legs active. I was again surprised to notice that even when I did the practice during a sad moment, by the time we’d reached this spot in the video, the walking and active legs was also helping. Even though prior, the softer muscles worked best. I took this as a sign that the releasing was working and I made a conscious note of it. Had I started with Walk the Dog, it would have added to my sad mood rather than help.
After Walk the Dog we went back to a seated position and stayed there through the rest of the video, placing much focus on stretching. This was to bring us back into our flow, as Adriene calls it. The flow we have when the little things don’t happen to shift our mood.
Adriene maintains positive affirmations throughout the yoga for mood swings video. Things like, “I am supported”. Which I found incredibly helpful in combination with the poses.
She ended with the Reclining Goddess Pose, also known as Supta Baddha Konasana. The moment I was in this pose, I felt relief from the emotions that had affected my mood so much. I don’t know why it worked, but it did.
Perhaps because spreading my legs open in such a manner forces my heart upward at the same time as it puts me in a vulnerable position at my base. As a victim of sexual abuse, opening my legs can be a struggle even when I’m alone. The more I trust myself and the situation, the easier it becomes to open my legs. But no matter how safe I feel, that position still makes me feel very vulnerable.
When I’m able to feel vulnerable rather than shut down, it means I’m working through whatever is causing me emotional pain.
Shifting Mood and Thought
I wholeheartedly believe that proper yoga for mood swings can change our attitude. If I was doing the wrong kind, like a bunch of super soft poses while I was full of rage, I don’t think that would be helpful. But with Adriene’s method of listening to our body’s needs, we can embrace what our instincts tell us and work through the emotions that are sucking the happiness from us.
We will always be affected by our surroundings. We live in a chaotic world the majority of the time. Having the tools to stop, breathe, listen to our body, then move in a manner that releases, could change how we go about our day.
Imagine if I was in line at the grocery store and someone cut in front of me knowing I was there first. No matter what I chose to do at that moment, I’d still have emotions around what happened. I might get angry and say something. I might decide to suck it up and not start an argument. But either way, I’m going to feel slighted. If I don’t deal with the emotion at that moment, it would add to the list other things that happened that day until I became overwhelmed and full of rage.
But what if I recognised my anger and what the person did, then tuned into my body right there in the line. I could focus on my tense muscles. Listen to my body and what it needed. Then I could stretch or move onto my toes to activate my calf muscles. Many things could be done to release the feeling right there. And releasing means, I don’t need to carry what happened beyond the store.
By shifting my thoughts on how to respond to others, I can also change my mood. I feel if we all began behaving in this manner, the chaos that so many of us know would eventually cease to exist.
Yoga for Happiness Series Wrap
If you haven’t read them yet, please see Parts One: Compassion Yoga and Two: Gratitude Yoga as well. This series is designed to give tools that will assist with the pursuit and ability to maintain happiness and introduce mindfulness also for those who have difficulties with meditation. From my experiences, Adriene’s yoga series worked for achieving a greater level of happiness. But I had to commit to it completely.
This experience taught me that balancing the mind, body, and soul become easier when incorporating the practices of yoga and mindfulness. I now pay attention to my thoughts, my body and the tension in it, and my gut, which will conflict with my thoughts more often than I care to admit. These parts of me make up the whole me and keeping them in balance is vital to me being present, complete, and happy.