On MHA’s Centering Sunday, May 19th, you can practice yoga, take pilates or book a massage, all with a good karma twist. In honor of May is Mental Health Month, yoga studios and wellness centers across the Hudson Valley are offering classes in support of the Mental Health Association of Westchester’s mental health programs and services.
Stigma about mental health conditions causes needless shame and fear and is the biggest obstacle to seeking help. With good treatment, people can and do recover and lead healthy lives in the community.
To participate in this stigma-stopping event, visit www.mhawestchester.org and find the studio nearest you.
To celebrate the creation of Centering Sunday, we asked Amy Weintraub, who has been a pioneer in the field of yoga and mental health for over 20 years and is the author of the bestselling Yoga for Depression, to offer one of her favorite breathing exercises:
“When feelings of separation or loneliness arise, I know of no better way to sense our interconnectedness than to begin a breathing practice. Aside from the well-documented health benefits, we can stop a ruminative chain of thoughts or a negative mood state in its tracks with one of many simple yogic breathing exercises called pranayama. Trauma, loss and the everyday hassles of daily life can create constriction in the physical and emotional body. As we constrict, we begin to close off from others. Some of us carry this sense of separation throughout our lives in the form of depression. Yogic breathing can begin to break through that wall of separation, perhaps just a chink at first, through which we begin to feel less separate and alone. A simple breath can give us a felt sense of our connection to the energy of the cosmos. Einstein once said that “we are operating under the optical delusion of our separateness and that our separateness is lethal”. When we breathe mindfully, that delusion dissolves and we begin to see clearly again that we are intimately and eternally connected to the energy of the universe and to each other. What is authentic within us is given voice.
When we breathe consciously, we may quiet the clatter of thoughts so that mindfulness naturally arises. Try this simple breath when the busy mind needs a respite.
Ocean-Sounding Victory Breath (Ujjayi)
This breath, jokingly referred to as Darth Vader Breath, is soothing to the central nervous system, even as it calms the mind and supports greater focus for meditation.
- To begin, inhale through the nostrils to the count of four with a slight constriction at the back of the throat, so that the breath is audible, like a light snoring sound.
- Exhale through the nostrils for four counts, maintaining the snoring sound.
- The breath is slow, and deep. Feel the breath expanding the belly, the ribcage, and then the upper chest.
- On the exhalation, pull the abdomen in and up to empty the lungs completely.
- Sense the breath at the back of the throat.
- Listen to your breath. Does it sound like a wave gently rolling across pebbles? Imagine your favorite pebbly beach. Does it sound like an infant’s snore? Let it be like a lullaby to yourself—perhaps a younger you. “
MHA is a community-based mental health agency that has been helping Westchester County residents for 67 years through direct services, professional and community education and advocacy. MHA supports 20,000 individuals annually through a comprehensive array of mental health services striving to help each individual to achieve their personal goals and to lead independent, healthy lives. For information, visit www.mhawestchester.org