Picture the posture of a teen suffering with depression. Often they are slumped, chest closed, head hanging forward. It’s the posture of someone attempting to protect their heart from pain, yet the posture keeps the heart steeping in that pain it’s trying to avoid.
Now, picture the posture of a confident, thriving teen, full of vigor and life. The chest is open and lifted. There is strength in the core and spring in the step.
Here are three postures meant to indicate the journey from a depressed posture to an uplifted one.
1. CHILD”S POSE (Balasana): An oft-quoted phrase in the yoga world is: “Start where you are.” This could not be any more true than in the case of depression. Thrusting open a timid heart too quickly can be disconcerting and do more harm than good. Child’s Pose is a gentle place to start by honoring “what is” and allowing teens to utilize the tendency to close off as an actual starting point toward healing.
2. STAFF POSE (Dandasana): I refer to this posture as the “magic wand” of yoga poses. Much of the grounding and alignment associated with standing poses can be accomplished here without the added challenge of balance. The wall can be used as a support for the back. Bent knees are welcomed and encouraged. Here is a wonderful opportunity to work on pelvic alignment and head/neck placement. Using the sitting bones, hand and heels as anchors, students can grow the spine and lift the heart to their natural ability. Remind youth to: “Sit tall with strength and courage.”
3. RECLINING BOUND ANGLE POSE (Supta Badha Konasana): Backbends can be exhilarating, sometime too much so for teens dealing with issues of insecurity and depression. This back bending pose is a gentle way forward to an open heart with lots of support. If bolster and blocks are not available, folded blankets work well. “Slowly open to new experiences with plenty of support.”
Teens dealing with depression can gain profound benefit from time spent focusing on the breath and body. Learning to follow the breath into tense spots in the body helps teens learn how to shift their thinking without necessarily avoiding the tension. In yoga, the way forward is through. Teens learn to cope with their stress and anxiety effectively by learning to manage their physical tension using the breath and mindful movement.
Written by Abbi Wills for the Shanti Generation