Hip & Healthy contributor, Jemma Crow, sheds light (pun intended!) on how colour and light therapy in yoga is the next big thing and why it can benefit our bodies.
Hands up if you’ve been feeling SAD recently? Seasonal Affective Disorder seems to have hit me particularly hard this winter in terms of feeling down, and there’s not one particular reason I can put my finger on as to why. It’s said that around 20% of the UK population suffer from some kind of seasonal depression and it’s only something that’s going to grow if we don’t tackle it. So how do we get ourselves out of this seasonal funk?
Well, one thing that could help might be coloured lights. Light therapy has been used in treating SAD and other depressive illnesses for a while, but mostly the solution is suggested to be sitting in front of a blue or white lamp each day. But there’s a new trend emerging that seeks to combine exercise and coloured lights – after all, light therapy is a type of energy medicine.
It has been shown that innovative light therapy treatments can increase the circulation of oxygenated blood in the body, which can increase your metabolism and promote detoxification. We’ve been told (since we all fall asleep glued to our smartphones) that blue light can affect our sleep patterns in a negative way, but if we flip this assertion on its head, blue light could actually help us to wake up feeling good in the morning. Emulating the sunrise, yellow light can provide a warm and calming effect, and that may be why you’ll see it in hospitals – it could help patients to relax and fall asleep even in unfamiliar surroundings. On the other hand, orange may actually help to increase our mental activity, so it could be great for studying and activities where we need to concentrate.
Another wellness trend that has been exploring the benefit of light therapy recently is the trend for infrared saunas. It’s been found that red light can penetrate the skin by up to 10mm and can help to convert light energy into cellular energy once it’s been absorbed in the body – a process that can help with the body’s natural healing process.
So knowing the benefits these colours can have on our mood and energy, how do we harness these and use them to benefit our everyday life? Well, there’s one London studio who have been embracing this trend for the past year – Chroma Yoga in Shoreditch.
Opened in mid-2017 by founder Nina Ryner, Chroma Yoga brings a revolutionary approach to practising yoga. The idea for each class is to “combine light and colour therapy techniques with brain stimulating soundscapes and bespoke natural scents to create a multi-sensory yoga experience.” Combining colour and yoga isn’t something totally new – it links back to the chakras which are historically important to the ancient practice of yoga – but it’s something we haven’t experienced in a studio setting before. So, having read its promise to “address the balance in our lives by saturating ourselves in the colours we need to bring about positive change,” I headed to Chroma Yoga in Shoreditch to try it out for myself.
My Chroma Yoga journey started with the new Ganzsound Meditation class and it is truly different to anything I’ve tried before – and that’s coming from someone experienced with meditation! The teacher-less class plays heavily into the senses of sight and hearing; you start by putting on the Beats by Dre Studio3 headphones which allow you to escape into a noise cancelling atmosphere. Then you then relax into savasana and close your eyes, letting the lights filter through your eyelids – the colours fit so perfectly with the sound and allow you to be transported to a meditative state that can feel almost trippy.
The meditative music has been composed by Nina’s friend Heloise Tunstall-Behrens; she uses rhythmic low frequencies that turn the brain onto the alpha range – a state that stimulates relaxation, internal focus, creative thinking and visualisation. Inspired by the ‘Ganzfeld effect’ (which is a form of perceptual deprivation) the class allows you to get into a state that causes the brain to amplify neutral noise in order to search for the missing sensory signals we’re so used to. Teamed with the changing colours, this allows us to almost go into a state of lucid dreaming. I can honestly say I came out feeling ready for the day ahead with a newfound sense of concentration and focus that I’d been lacking in the past few weeks.
Nina has big plans for this class, having only introduced it to the schedule in the past few weeks, so look out for guided meditations and more coming soon.
And what of the more traditional yoga classes Chroma offer that harnesses the benefits of specific colours? Well, these too helped bring me out of my winter slump. Heading to the Orange Foundations class – said to stimulate cognitive function and increase productivity and alertness – I found myself more able to focus on the shoulder opening techniques being taught to me. Previously I’ve found it difficult to stay in the moment in workshops without much flow.
The Blue Class – intended to wake up the body and increase energy – was a dynamic flow class that linked breath to the movements. Great for a morning start or lunchtime boost, but not advised for an evening as blue light can have a detrimental effect on the body winding down for sleep.
Yellow light mimics sunset and sunrise and can help to alleviate mood swings – the twists and openings in the shoulders and hips aid digestion, while the burst of orange light at the end of the evening classes helps to promote a healthy night’s sleep.
The pink classes are a restorative dream – especially when practised on a Friday night. Each pink class teacher has another string to their bow and my teacher Clara was also an acupuncturist and proponent of the meridian energy system. She uses the lines of the liver and gallbladder in the class (which are linked to spring in East Asian medicine) through the prolonged holding of yin poses.
Finally, the red classes are strong, powerful and energetic (as you can imagine), with a focus on challenging your practice while increasing your circulation and speeding up your metabolism. This is, therefore, best suited to yogis who have a few classes under their belts already.
So if you’re looking for a way to cure the winter blues, then you might find that light frequencies could have a positive effect on your body. Head on down to Chroma Yoga and enjoy your yoga or meditation bathed in mood-enhancing light, a specially composed soundtrack and curated blends of essential oils made by scent maker Asakala. It truly is a new take on the traditional yoga class and one that may benefit your mood in more ways than you can imagine. If you’re looking to up your wellness game, then colour and light therapy might well be the new frontier.
words by Jemma Crow @jemsy14
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