“Do not we all suffer from Bipolar Disorder?” – asked my friend while conversing about this subject. I could have casually said “Oh Yes”, had I not diligently worked hard to understand this condition because of my presentation with Bipolar India, Bipolar Peer Support Group on March 30, to mark the Bipolar Disorder Day.
Not many people are aware of the medical condition called Bipolar Disorder. Most of them are under the impression that swinging moods in day to day life is probably what is called Bipolar Disorder, whereas in reality, the sufferer alternates between two extreme emotions and it continues to persist for a while. In fact, at times, the patient is not even aware that he has become a victim of this disorder and that he is displaying dual personalities. The immediate relatives too become a part of this suffering and do not know how to handle the patient. Normal course of life becomes abnormal, to the extent, that in some extreme cases, the sufferer is disowned by the family and left to fend for themselves. As I started interacting more and more with the affected ones (including my student) and their close relatives, it opened my eyes to the horrors of this condition.
Thank God; with proper diagnosis and medical treatment, a sufferer’s life can regain normalcy. The medication, combined with alternative healing has shown substantial benefits in a lot of cases. Introducing Hatha Yoga as an Adjunctive Therapy too will definitely yield many positive results as the concept of Hatha Yoga itself deals with the philosophy of harmonizing the two opposing forces.
Recent News published in the ‘Journal of Psychiatric Practice’ reaffirms this, where an online survey of the sufferers was published. The sufferers acknowledged that regular Yoga practice made them calmer, reduced their anxiety level, distracted them from depressive thoughts and helped them maintain a better overall balance of life.
Hatha Yoga as an Adjunctive Therapy
A moderate path from the yogic perspective is a safe option for sure. As a starting point of practice, one can choose to begin with “Balancing Postures” and “Yogic Breathing”. It becomes pertinent to start with asana (at the gross level) so that one can prepare the body for maintaining the neutrality of spine which is a critical factor when it comes to yogic breathing.
Again before a Bipolar Patient can achieve this control over Balancing Postures, it is important to begin the journey with basic “Standing Postures”. These standing postures break the tamas or inertness or better known as “ laziness” in you. It develops a sense of balance, strength and brings about the ability to distribute body weight evenly. Also, it works on big muscles so that you can gradually reach your small muscles for a harmonious development of both. So, asanas like Tadasana, Utthita Trikonasana, Virbhadrasana, Utthita Parsavkonasana etc. could make a part of beginners’ practice. Within a few weeks of practice, one can gradually begin to move into balancing postures.
Vrksa means tree. This posture develops the ‘grounding of the tree’ in you, bringing in a sense of poise, balance and stability.
- Stand in Tadasana
- Place your hands on your waist
- Bend your right knee to place your right foot at the root of the left leg. The right heel should touch the source of the leg and the toes of right foot should face the floor.
- Lengthen the body by engaging the standing leg completely, pull its thigh into the groin, adjust your hips in one line, so that, the body is not tilting to one side, squeeze the left hip to get a better grip on left groin, lengthen each vertebrae away from one another with the chest diagonally lifted up, thereby, bringing the shoulder blades closer to each other as well as oriented downward towards the floor, the leg below the knee is almost at 90o and parallel to the floor. Push your bent knee to the back to get this position.
- Maintaining the above balance, stretch your arms apart, as much as possible away from each other, this will activate your core region; with inhalation, steadily raise your stretched arms up towards the ceiling; you should feel the stretch on the sides, with your ribs stretching apart and then going up with the movement of your arms. Interlock your fingers except your index fingers which are stretched out and pressed against each other. Palms are pressed against each other too.
- In this final position, press your left foot firmly on the floor to lift your body up, push your right foot firmly against the left leg to build up stability, maintain the length of your body through out and check the lengthening & strengthening effect from the bottom of your foot to the top of your index fingers.
- Shoulders have a tendency to go up and come close to your ear lobes, which creates a strain on the neck. To avoid this, roll the shoulders slightly to the back and put it down. Slightly tuck in your chin as well to align your head with your neck.
As one graduates with practice, move on to Virbhadrasana 3 and Ardha Chandrasana and further more.
Balancing postures need a one pointed attention, which requires a stable mind. With regular practice of these asanas, one begins to develop those organs which make stability a second nature, whether it is physical or mental.
Coming to the breathing aspect, one needs to understand sectional breathing first and then combine it right to move on to ‘Yogic Breathing.’ Check out my next blog on this subject.
Though there had been instances of negative effects like increased anxiety, with rapid breathing, prepondering more into a depressive state after meditation practices or being self-critical about not being able to perform like some others. These cases have been due to taking extreme yoga practices. One has to be careful to start with moderate practice and then move on as and when one gets control over each minute aspect of the yogic journey to living a Bipolar Free life.
Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.
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