Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to Cope During the Eating-Sleeping-Crying Season

I'll be giving my Winter Blues Workshop this Saturday from 12-3 at Namaskar Yoga, 3950 North Southport. Many people have already signed up, so call ahead and reserve a spot if you plan to go. I'll also do the workshop Saturday 2/19 at North Shore Yoga in Northfield and Saturday 2/26 at Creative Therapeutics in DeKalb.

My related Winter Blues article is now online. Here's an excerpt:

I started getting my depression under control in 1997, about a month after my mother died of cancer. That's when I walked into my first yoga session at the Lincoln-Belmont YMCA. The class provided a vacation from the ever-present pain, and the sense of well-being lasted for a few hours afterwards. I was hooked from the start. Within a few months I was taking classes every day (sometimes twice a day) at the Chicago Yoga Center ; a year later, I was sharing what I'd learned with others.

Since then, I've devoted my life to the study and practice of yoga, studying with a long list of senior instructors, making five trips to India , completing four teacher trainings, and continuing to study regularly with my guru, Sri Dharma Mittra. I was able to fine-tune my practice to the point where I could throw out my antidepressants.

I still struggle with depression. But now, I have a yoga arsenal at my disposal. Now, I can alter my mood using postures, breathing, mudras, diet, chanting, and meditation.

Here are a few things that may help you.


Backbends and twists are great for combating lethargy, because they affect the spine and activate the nervous system, releasing energy. Supported backbends are a wonderful option if you're feeling depleted; it can be as simple as lying down with a bolster supporting your middle back, and placing a rolled blanket under the shoulders. But I've found that simply moving the body will make the energy start to flow. If you haven't yet developed a home yoga practice, get yourself to class! (If you find classes too expensive, find out if your local studio has a free community class, or check the offerings at the local park district). Or simply go outside and take a brisk walk around the block. Just make sure you do it when the sun is out, so you can soak up its energizing rays.


The breath is considered the life force in yoga. It follows that if you breathe deeply, you'll bring more life force into the body and feel less lethargic. When I'm feeling depleted, I do a positive breathing exercise I learned from Sri Dharma Mittra. I combat anxiety with calming breathing. These practices--and most pranayamas--should be learned directly from a qualified teacher (both positive and calming breathing will be covered in my upcoming workshops). A type of breathing that requires no special training is smooth, even diaphragmatic breathing through the nose. You may do this breathing anywhere, at any time. Initially, try it on your back, while in savasana, placing your hands on the belly and chest and noticing the movement of the breath. Make sure the inhale is as long as the exhale and that the belly is moving. Adding ujjayi , or victorious, breath by making a gentle snoring or hissing sound in the back of the throat draws the mind's attention to the breath and automatically has a calming effect. As the Chandogya Upanishad says, “He who has control of his breath also has control over his mind.”

Click here to read the article in its entirety.


Photo snapped in September 2008 at the Balaji Temple in A.P., India. It's hard to depressed in such a sacred place.


  1. What a perfect trikonasana.

  2. Anonymous8:30 AM

    I enjoyed reading your blog. It's very well written. Yoga's benefits are numerous and cannot be quantified.But to go higher or evolve one needs the grace of a Guru. Only one who has woken up from dream can help others. Since you have great faith in Swami Sivananda, you can also read a fascinating autobiography of Swami Virajeshwara, " A Scientist's search for truth". He is a direct disciple of Swami Vidyananda who was a Jivanmukta and directly initiated by Swami Sivananda. He is staying in a small ashram, eighty kilometres from Bangalore, and helping serious seekers.

  3. I agree, Anon!

    There are satgurus here in America as well.

    Mine is mentioned no fewer than five times in the article.

    Thank you for the info on the book. Reading the stories of the gurus can be very beneficial.