It had been one of those days. I spilled my coffee. My daughter refused to take her morning nap; No nap means I didn’t even get to shower until late in the afternoon. And that mini yoga session I try to squeeze in every morning? Forget it! It was one thing after another all day long. By the end of the day, I was ready to throw up my hands in defeat. But instead of the usual frustrated, stressed feeling that often accompanies a bad day, I felt a darkness descend on me. I felt hopeless–like a failure. I was just, plain sad.
I had to remind myself that my day had been full of First World Problems–the kind of problems that many people around the world would be thrilled to have. It helps to realize that the things that I get really bent out of shape about are really and truly trivial when you look at the big picture. But it doesn’t always turn my mood around and help me to see the world as the amazing, beautiful place I know it is. I needed a boost of happiness–and quick. So at the first opportunity, I took a shower and unrolled my mat to practice a few poses that always seem to cheer me up.
Here are my 5 go-to yoga poses that lift my spirits, elevate my mood, and leave me with at a smile on my face.
Sun Salutations. Moving through Sun Salutations always gets my mind off my First World Problems.The constant movement helps me focus on the present moment. For me, those moments of presence are exactly what I need to start to feel good again.
Ustrasana (Camel Pose). All backbends are energizing, so when I’m feeling sad, I start a backbend practice as soon as I can. I love Ustrasana because I find that gravity helps me to stretch the chest and shoulders a little more efficiently than other backbends. I also love the variations on Ustrasana from slowly swimming the arms back one at a time (I call it Camel doing the Backstroke) to playing with dropping back. Approaching poses as a fun exploration always makes me happy–no matter what the pose is!
Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose). Inversions are confidence-building poses for me. It’s almost impossible to feel sad and confident at the same time. For a double boost of happiness, I might practice a backbending version, or Scorpion (at the wall, of course, because falling and injuring myself would NOT make me happy).
Happy Baby Pose. Even the name of this pose brings a smile to my face. Who doesn’t love a happy baby? (I’m especially fond of happy babies that take their regularly scheduled naps!) It also feels good to feel freedom in my hips and roll around a bit, giving myself a little low little massage.
Supta Baddha Konasa (Reclined Bound Angle Pose) Focusing on the Inhalation. Have you ever noticed that when you feel sad your inhale tends to be short and shallow while your exhale might be long and exaggerated? When I notice this breathing pattern, I know it’s time to take a few minutes to focus on breathing in fully to come back to balance. I like Supta Baddha Konasana because I can rest my hands on my belly and really feel the expansive inhale. (It’s especially lovely to support the spine by lying over a flat bolster.) This breathing exercise is a beautiful reminder that, like the breath, emotions come and go. The world is so much bigger than my problems. And there’s always joy inside of me, if I just take the time to tap into it.