Yoga & Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
weather has definite affect on our mood.
Sunlight breaking through clouds can lift our spirits, while a
dull, rainy day may make us feel a little gloomy. Seasonal
Affective Disorder (SAD), is a mood disorder that many people
suffer during the winter months. It is also known as winter depression,
winter blues, summer depression, summer blues, or seasonal
SAD has been related to lack of Serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter.
Approximately 90% of the human body's total serotonin is located in the
enterochromaffin cells in the alimentary canal (gut), where it is used to
regulate intestinal movements. The remainder is synthesized in serotonergic
neurons of the CNS, where it has various functions. These include the regulation
of mood, appetite,
Serotonin also has some cognitive functions, including memory and learning.
Modulation of serotonin at synapses is thought to be a major action of several
classes of pharmacological antidepressants.
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include tiredness, fatigue,
depression, crying spells, irritability, trouble concentrating, body
loss of sex
poor sleep, decreased activity level, and overeating,
especially of carbohydrates, with associated weight
When the condition presents in the summer, the symptoms are more commonly insomnia,
poor appetite, and weight
in addition to irritability, difficulty concentrating, and crying spells. In
severe instances, seasonal affective disorder can be associated with thoughts of
SAD may affect some children and teenagers, but it tends to begin in people over
the age of 20. The risk of SAD decreases with age. The condition is more common
in women than in men.
Treating or rather managing SAD, would involve, increasing exposure to light,
monitoring your diet, sleep patterns and increasing exercise
levels. Yoga can
help in relieving stress, building energy and increasing your mental and
physical well-being. For those who are severely affected, devising a treatment
plan with a health care professional consisting of light therapy, medication and
cognitive-behavioural therapy may also be needed.
Yoga: a Tool to Manage SAD
a technique in yoga that involves gazing at a particular object, especially a
candle flame. In fact, the word "trataka" means "steady and uninterrupted gaze".
If practiced regularly, the technique can stimulate the pineal gland in the
brain to produce melatonin.
the manipulation of breath can also increase the production of melatonin. Some
of the breathing techniques, alternate nostril breathing in particular, send
electrical impulses through the brain which in turn can alter physiological
process for the better.
Another amazing technique is Sun Salutations or Surya
The series of forward and backward bends done in tune with the breath has the
effect of regulating the functioning of the entire endocrine system.
Asanas that can be practiced regularly include,
Matsyasana (Fish pose)
Lie down on your back with your legs straight and your feet together.
Place your hands, palms down, underneath your thighs.
Pressing down on your elbows, inhale and arch your back. Drop your head
back so that the top of your head is on the floor, but your weight should
rest on your elbows. Exhale. Breathe deeply while in the position, keeping
your legs and lower torso relaxed. To come out of the pose, lift your head
and place it gently back down, then release the arms.
Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand)
Lie down flat on the floor, on your back, palms by your side facing
Exhale and lift your legs up 30, then 60, then 90 and then around 130
degrees so they are extended behind your head.
Stay in this position, breathing normally, for a few seconds.
Now, gradually, exhale again, and straighten your legs up to 90 degrees,
lifting your buttocks as well. Support the back of your trunk with your
palms, keeping elbows on the floor. Gradually, walk your hands towards your
shoulder blades, as you lift your body higher.
Your elbows may tend to move outwards. Bring them in, so they are
straight in line with your shoulders.
You will notice that your hips tend to jut out backwards, while your
feet tend to come forward over the head. This is not the right way to do it.
Work at it so your body is in a straight line. Your hips, feet and shoulders
should be aligned, so push your feet back and bring your hips and tailbone
forward. Remember, this exercise is not as much about effort as it is about
Lift your body as high up as possible. Sarvangasana is a shoulder stand,
so your body should be resting on your shoulders and not on your back.
Hold this position for as long as possible.
Remember to exhale while lifting your body up, but once your body is up,
you can breathe normally.
There is no need to hold your breath.
Time yourself, so you can see how long you can remain in this position.
The next time, try and balance your body for a little longer.
Ardha-matsyendrasana (Spinal twist)
Sit extending both the legs together in front, hands by the side, palms
resting on the ground.
Fingers should remain together pointing forward.
Fold the right leg at knee. Slowly set the right heel at the perineum.
Now folding the left leg, bringing it from above the right knee, place
it by its side on the ground. The knee of the left leg should remain towards
Now bring the right hand on the left side of the left knee. The left
knee should remain at the left side of the right armpit.
Now straighten the right hand and hold the toe or ankle of the left leg.
Twisting the body to the left side, look backwards, place the left hand
bringing it from the back on the right thigh. Gaze should be towards back.
While returning to the original position first release the hand from the
thigh and turn head forward.
Now bring the back to normal position after loosening the right hand.
Bring the left leg in original position.
Now bring the right leg also original position.
Repeat it similarly from the other side by folding the left leg first.
nidra (or deep relaxation) and
creative visualization techniques can be practiced for a few minutes daily.
If you exercise indoors, position yourself near a window. Make a habit of taking
a daily noon-hour walk. The activity and increased exposure to natural light can
raise your spirits.
NOTE: Speak to your doctor before you practice any of these methods and be sure
to try them out with the help of an experienced yoga instructor. You will see
the real difference between managing mood swings and feeling genuinely happy, no
matter what the weather.
Dated 12 January 2013