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.