Photo credit Spiritual Awakenings
Continuing our theme of exploring ways to relieve the stress of this busy time of year, this week we’re going to do the calming moon sequence and practice a breathing technique called alternate nostril breath (nadi sodanam). This brings us into balance, helps us to focus on the present moment and can lower blood pressure, so is a lovely breath to practice if you’re feeling a bit frazzled! Become more calm and peaceful.
“The secret lies in the present
– if you pay attention to the present,
you will be able to improve it.
And if you improve the present,
whatever happens afterwards will be better too.
Each day brings us Eternity”
From The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
Only for the brave or if you have your own private office!
You don’t have to go to such lengths to release stress during your working day. Just a few minutes stretching and some mindful breathing throughout your day will really help to break the pattern of stress and anxiety that can spiral out of control if we’re not careful. As we get busier towards Christmas, and the pace of life goes ever faster, we may think we have no time to relax, stretch and look after ourselves. But you don’t need long.
5 minute stress relief recipe
- 5 minutes of time
- Any quiet space, (loos are good :-)) **
- Shake your hands, arms, feet and legs. Really loosen the muscles and flick away stress and tension.
- Shrug your shoulders, holding them by your ears for a few seconds. Breathe out and release, letting go of tightness from the shoulders.
- Circle your hips, drawing a wide circle to release tension from the lower back.
- Breath of Arjuna – a dynamic, heart-opening, stress-relieving breath that we practice in Dru yoga.
- Belly breath in Mountain pose. Complete by grounding yourself in mountain pose and allow the breath to fill your abdomen, visualising any remaining tension being absorbed by the earth beneath you as you exhale.
A ‘you’ that is relaxed, refreshed and able to cope with whatever comes next in your life.
** If you don’t have a private space, either go out for a 5 minute walk, or focus on your breath for 5 minutes. You can practice mindful breathing anywhere – you don’t even have to close your eyes, just draw your attention inwards and count your breath in and out, consciously letting go of tension with each out breath.
Dru yoga breath of Arjuna
- Stand in mountain pose, with the knees relaxed
- Bring right hand in front of left at hip level
- Inhaling, draw both hands up the front of the body, as if pulling off a jumper
- Open the arms when the hands are above your head and exhale as you slowly lower them down by your sides, creating a big circle. Keep the elbows soft, and keep your hands in your peripheral vision. Bend the knees slightly as you lower the arms, but keep the body upright.
- Repeat, bringing left hand in front of right.
- Gradually allow the movement and the breath to slow down as you repeat a few times.
As you lower the arms, imagine letting go of any stress and anxieties.
“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher” – Pema Chodron.
Moving towards the season of goodwill, it sometimes seems anything but that. We get overwhelmed by everything we have to do and the stress levels rise. Shops are busy, with everyone rushing around, and we think ‘what on earth can I buy for Auntie Maud or the folks next door’. Instead of it being a pleasure to give, it becomes a chore and we end up even blaming them for being so difficult to buy for.
Yoga can help to relieve some of that stress and bring the goodwill back into the season, so we start to feel the joy of giving, not frustration.
Focusing on the heart is a powerful technique for developing feelings of generosity and gratitude, which in turn will make you feel happier. A posture which opens the heart and gives it a lovely massage is Utkatasana or ‘Chair of the Heart’. It also helps to generate heat, so a great one to warm you up if you’re feeling chilly. We’ll be practicing this posture with the Lotus mudra, which intensifies those feelings of generosity and compassion.
Tip: If someone’s getting you down, imagine them standing in front of you while you do the Chair of the Heart. Visualise your heart opening or glowing like a candle flame and send out feelings of love to them instead of anger, fear or frustration.
Apologies to those of you that love everything about Christmas!
“To contact the richness of the season, its various ways of letting things go …to open the window and to look out and welcome the elements nature offers us – the sounds of the leaves when we walk or how they float through the air and rest on the ground, also the darkness and tediousness of rainy days and the special atmosphere of mist and fog … yoga practice offers a way to welcome all these elements and learn how to savour their special subtlety.” (from Yoga through the Seasons by Sandra Sabatini and Silvia Mori)
I think we not only come to know ourselves better through yoga, but we become more aware of everything around us – to notice those subtleties and appreciate the beauty of nature. To actually look at the leaves and the fruits, rather than rushing or drifting through life without participating in it. How often do you get to the end of a day only to wonder where it went and how you spent your time?
There’s a tendency to become a bit melancholy in the autumn, as the nights draw in and it gets colder. But it gives us an opportunity to snuggle up under a blanket, light some candles and give ourselves the opportunity to slow down and rest. To maybe do some yoga postures that draw us inwards, such as Paschimottanasana (sitting forward bend) or Vipariti Karani (supported inversion), and to do lots of lovely deep relaxations.