At some point in your life you’ve probably heard the adage, “The best thing you can do for your mental health is move your body.” That’s all well and good, but what happens when a rough mental health day makes it next to impossible to move? In my struggle with depression I’ve definitely had days where getting out of bed is Not Happening, much less getting out of the house for exercise. Even when you can’t get out of bed, there still some ways to introduce some movement into your day that don’t require a huge commitment or lots of energy. Here are three of my favorites.
Overhead Stretch Even on days when I feel like I can’t do anything at all, I can usually pull this one off. From wherever you are (bed, couch, etc.) take a deep breath in and out. Raise your arms up overhead and stretch from the tips of your fingers down to your toes, like you just woke up from a nice, restful nap. Release the stretch, then take a few more deep, slow breaths. Even this small movement can be enough to lift the fog a bit, and once I’ve done it I’m often ready to try a little more movement.
Knees to Chest & Spinal Twist Lying down on your back, bring knees in toward your chest and give them a hug. It may be more comfortable to move your legs apart a bit to accommodate belly, ribs, or chest. Take a few deep breaths here. If you’re ready for more movement, bring your arms out to the side and drop your knees to one side while looking over opposite shoulder. If the twist feels too intense, prop a few pillows or blankets underneath or between your knees for support. Bring your knees back to center, then repeat the twist on the other side.
Child’s Pose This one is by far my favorite, to the point that it has become part of my daily wake-up routine. Roll onto your stomach (if you’re not already there) and make your way to hands and knees, also known as table pose. From here, bring big toes together to touch and open knees wide. Shift weight back toward your heels and move your forehead toward the bed. Arms can stretch out in front of you or you can cross them at elbows and rest your forehead on them. You can always add in some pillows or blankets for a little extra support underneath your torso, head, or booty. Chill here for as long as feels comfortable, bringing your attention to your breath. You don’t need to control your breathing, just notice how the air feels as it comes into and goes out of your lungs. When ready, slowly come back to table pose and move to a comfortable resting position.
These stretches can be super helpful for me on rough mental health days, but they might not work for everyone. If these aren’t for you don’t worry--experiment a bit until you find something that works. And, as always, remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself credit for trying something new!
Kris Anne is a registered yoga teacher and has been part of the YogaQuest community since 2012. She loves that YogaQuest provides a safe space for geeks to practice yoga, and an accepting environment in which she can move her body and feel free to be a weirdsmobile. Because it has meant so much to her, she is dedicated to bringing YogaQuest to more people, and sharing its message of non-compliant self care.