We’ve entered that most busy time of the year – the run up to Christmas. I love the
Hilary practising her Warrior posture
festive period but find the build up can be a little overwhelming. In the run up to Christmas, I thought it would be nice to post a blog each week on the theme of keeping your equilibrium – tips and reminders for us all, so that we can make the most of what should be merry and joyful season, and it will all tie in with the yoga we will be teaching in our classes over the next few weeks.
In this first post I thought we might explore ways to stay calm and peaceful.
Winter is time when our bodies naturally want to rest, slow down and hibernate, but there are many distractions at this time of year and lots of busy-ness. This can lead to stress, anxiety and a whole host of physical symptoms, including a weakened immune system, and the last thing you want is to be poorly during the festivities.
If you take some time out to look after yourself though, you will have the energy you need to enjoy all that the season has to offer. Here is some of my favourite yoga for managing stress and anxiety, bringing back calm, clarity and focus.
Make time to relax. At risk of sounding like a broken record, I know I say this all the time, but relaxation is absolutely vital to our wellbeing. Taking time out to rest is not a luxury, take it from one who has learned the hard way! If you don’t listen to your body’s signs that it needs rest it will take drastic action to make sure that you do rest (and that’s usually when you’re on holiday!). Best way to relax is to lie down so that your natural relaxation response can kick in, but just sitting quietly will be wonderfully restorative too. Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep too, particularly if you are partying hard, give your body time to catch up by resting well the day before and the day after. Try alternate nostril breathing or deep yogic breathing to help you nod off.
Move. Stress hormones can only be burnt off with physical movement, if we don’t burn them off they continue to circulate around our bodies causing the symptoms of stress – physical tension, headaches, tummy problems etc. Get out for a brisk walk, dance, do some gardening or vigorous housework (not my favourite tension tamer I have to be honest!). Dru Yoga is great for getting you moving, practice at home in between classes. We always start the class with activations because they help you release the stress hormones! Shake each of your joints and limbs out, circle your hips, do some energising dynamic twists, open the shoulders – you know the sort of things we do in class, start moving and you will remember what to do. Do some cross patterning too, such as bringing hand to opposite knee as you march on the spot, these are great for getting you out of your logical brain and into your relaxation brain.
Breathe. Shallow breathing will eventually push your body into stress mode and cause much physical tension. If you feel your breathing just in your chest, take time to focus on the breath moving in the abdomen. Inhale, tummy expands, exhale tummy falls. Breathing properly will help every one of your body systems, so it is worth practicing, and it will help you relax and bring you calm, clarity and focus. Other great calming breathing practices include alternate nostril breathing, humming bee breath and ujjayi (throat) breathing. If you really need to focus your mind practice the strong exhalation breath kappalbhati.
Stand and balance. Take a moment just to be still. Stand in the mountain pose. Scan through your body – how does it feel, does anywhere need any extra TLC? Lengthen your spine, deepen your breath, let yourself settle. Let your weight move forwards and backwards, then circle around the feet as we do in class. This is so soothing for the central nervous system. If you’ve time add in a balance. You have to focus on the job in hand otherwise you fall over, so balance postures are fantastic for bringing you into the here and now. When you feel the stillness bring in your positive affirmations and visualisations too, they do work. Find a friend and practice your tree poses together like our team photo, supporting each other and hopefully you’ll have a bit of a giggle too 🙂
Be a Yoga Warrior. Warrior poses are not about being aggressive, defensive or combative. We practice warrior postures to bring us strength and courage, to help us feel grounded, whilst opening us up to creativity and vitality. Be a warrior of peace.
I hope this has given a few ideas of things you can do to stay relaxed. Just a few minutes several times a day will make a difference, take more time out if you can though, and do keep coming to your yoga class we are there to help. Always makes me think of the very wise quote, (to which I have added a bit!), “Those who do not make time for exercise (and yoga!!), will soon find they have to make time for illness”.
Next time we’ll be looking at how to support your immune system at this busy time, so until then, keep calm and relax on. Ix