Posts In: yoga

While most of us will arise from this pandemic with our wellness (or relative wellness) intact, few of us will be unchanged. If you know anyone who fears being infected with the Covid-19 virus, you know how scary it can be for them. My mother tested negative after a week of fever, fatigue and disorientation that resulted in a hospital stay. Waiting for the results, not being able to get tested, or wondering if you’ve been exposed all feel stressful.

Even the people I know who have been well during this time have altered their patterns, some significantly, like the business owners I know who have temporarily closed down. Others have gone for weeks without hugging family or friends, social interaction, or regular activities.

You may have experienced the fear of getting ill or losing loved ones. You might be feeling financial stress, unable to pay your bills, wondering whether you’ll have a job or business to which you can return. I also hear people talking about loneliness, boredom, and disappointment about lost opportunities like a birthday party for a family member, high school graduations, or a long planned vacation.

I too have experienced stress this last month. In addition to my mom’s illness and hospital stay, my brother died after battling brain cancer for three and half years. Not going back to visit my Indiana family was sad, but I knew it was the wise, right choice right now. My massage business is closed and my spouse’s business has been impacted. But with all of that I’m still well and hopeful. One of my lifesavers has been yoga.

My Yoga Survival Toolbox

I started practicing yoga in college to help reduce my stress. That has continued to be one of the things I love about my practice. Here are a few of the ways I use yoga to help me manage stress

Awareness: Sometimes when you’re going through a stressful time, yet you have stuff to do—a job to attend to, kids that now need to be homeschooled, meals to prepare, etc. you may bypass what you’re feeling. Sometimes paying attention can feel overwhelming or scary. Yet, noticing and acknowledging your inner world is crucial to shifting your inner landscape. You may not even realize how stressed you are until you pause to pay attention. Even that act may lessen your stress.

Breath. I use breath awareness throughout my day. When you’re under stress you may tend to hold your breath or to breath more shallowly. That triggers your body to stay in stress mode. When you learn to shift your breathing to that of a more relaxed state, even if you don’t feel relaxed at first, you begin to alter your nervous system. 

I recommend a breath practice that makes use of a longer exhalation, say an eight count exhalation to a four count inhalation, at bedtime. Try making it a habit before you fall asleep. It will help you downshift your nervous system making it easier to enter a deep and restful sleep.

Poses: I choose poses to support how I want to feel on a given day. Somedays I need to move so I might do more active standing poses. Other days I know I need the relaxation so I pick a slower paced yoga, maybe not even getting off the floor. I don’t have an expectation of what I’ll be doing when I sit on my mat. I refer to step one above and check in to find the most appropriate practice for me that day.

When determining your repertoire, consider spinal twists. There are lots of twists to choose from–seated, standing, on your back, and even on your belly. All will help you reduce stress and support healthy digestion which can become imbalanced during challenging times.

Yoga deserves its long standing reputation as a stress reduction tool. Simple, powerful, and effective. I invite you to experiment with these tools and see if they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

If you want to join me for live streaming yoga I’ve got two classes I’m offering right now on a pay what feels right basis. If funds are tight, join us for free.

I’m also offering private streaming yoga if you’d like a more individualized approach.

Meditation: Cool Tool #52

January 31, 2013

I can’t believe I left mediation to last in the 52 Cool Tools series.

It’s one of my most treasured daily tools. That’s part of what makes it so hard to write a

bout.

That and the thousands of ways you can practice meditation.

 Is Your Meditating Device Broken?

I hear people say they’re not good at meditating. They’re either not sure how to go about it. Or they’re tried and they just can’t get their mind to focus.

I also struggled with meditation. It didn’t come easily. My mind moved. And moved. And moved.

One weekend back in the late 80’s I went to a weekend retreat somewhere in Ohio.. The meditation teacher devoted a lot of time to questions. Here’s some of what I learned from her. (Unfortunately I don’t know her name. Heck, I can’t even remember what city it was near.)

  1. Set aside a regular time for meditation. With a regular time it becomes a habit. With repetition your body and mind start to understand what you expect. Giving meditation a dedicated times says it’s important.
  2.  Set aside a regular place. I claimed a space in my home. Then I added a few items that felt sacred to me, as well as a blanket and eye bag. Now I don’t have to think about where to be. I just head to my spot. Plus the energy of meditating in a space shifts the vibration of that space making it easier to meditate there.

 Achieving a Quiet Mind, Not!

One of my former yoga students used to attend silent retreats. The other students were curious and a little in awe. They belonged to the “I tried to meditate and it didn’t work for me” school.

One day someone asked him, “How do you get your mind to stop?”

The silent retreat dude laughed. “I don’t. I just aim for more and longer periods of silence.”

When I finally learned to be present with whatever happened during my meditation time I relaxed. Some days I go quickly into a deeply altered state. Some days I replay the conversation I just had. I think about an idea for an article I want to write, a class I want to teach. I make a mental to-do list.

And still I sit.

Different strokes

I found trying various styles of meditation helpful. So many choices ranging from ancient spiritual traditions to cutting edge technology. Your best choice will depend on your goals and your personality. You can:

  • Focus on your breath.
  • Use a meditation cd like holosync or a guided visualization.
  • Chant a mantra. (A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase that you repeat.)
  • Try a moving meditation such as walking or yoga.

If you’ve tried meditation and given up I encourage you to explore other styles. I encourage you to make it part of your self care routine.

 Why it’s now a daily part of my life

So what do I get from meditation? I feel soothed. My usually very active mind slows down. It even goes blank sometimes. I come back to my center. I connect to the divine. My problems and concerns melt away. I access the better, calmer, happier parts of me. I feel bliss and joy.

Yeah, it’s good stuff!

What’s your favorite style of meditation? Any pointers or tips to share from your experience?

 

 

I love this pose for times when I need a quick refresher. You’ll love it if you’ve been traveling, but aren’t ready to stop for sleep. Also great for longs days of standing. Or really anytime you feel tired and need some quick renewal. 

You’ll feel better with even a couple of minutes, but if you can devote at least five minutes that would be even better.

Skip the pose if you have glaucoma. And if you’ve got serious back or neck issues you’ll want to talk to an experienced yoga teacher or your health care person before proceeding.

 Have you tried this pose? Your favorite quick “renewer?”  

In the last post I promised you more on the subject of achy forearms. If you’ve ever practiced yoga you’re probably familiar with the pose locust or salabhasana.

Locust is one of those poses that looks like it would be easy. You’re lying on the floor after all. But try it and you’ll find your heart rate will rise with just one round of this potent asana.

You’ll get lots of benefits from practicing the entire pose. But I told you we were going to focus on stretching your arms.

 Watch the video and you’ll see what I’m talking about. 

Travel with Yoga

Once on a week adventure to the island of Cozumel my luggage didn’t arrive. I wore felt clogs on the plane from Indiana.  (I know, what was I thinking.)  Without my suitcase those clogs were my only shoes and it was in the high 80’s.

My suitcase also contained the essentials for a week of fun in the sun: snorkeling gear, bathing suits, sunscreen…

As you can imagine I was pretty anxious to get my bag pronto. The airline official asked if there was anything in my bag that would identify it as mine. Bathing suits and beach towels was not making my suitcase stand out.

Then I remembered my yoga mat. It even had my name on it. My luggage was retrieved and we had a great week.

Thank you yoga mat.

I take a yoga mat or my yoga paws every time I travel. But yoga isn’t just for when I reach my destination. It’s my bud in the air, on the train, in the car, and while waiting.

In fact, I’ve practiced yoga on many a plane and in airports around the world. I even led a group of fellow travelers in a yoga session while we were all stranded at a jungle airport in Peru.

If you’re familiar with yoga bring along your mat and a few poses you can do from a seated position: spinal flex, a gentle seated twist, a neck stretch…If yoga is foreign to you, then commit to learning a few poses for the plane.

If you prefer having a mat, you might want to get one just for travel. They sell ultra-light ones. I bought one that folds and then, because I’m short, I was able to cut some length off to save weight and space.

Your favorite travel moves?

 

Ready to Get Aligned & Thrive?

Be in the know. Articles, videos, upcoming events...