At this time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and all the preparations for Christmas. Yoga gives us that breathing space to relax and recharge the batteries. In the classes before Christmas we’re focussing on de-stressing and relaxation, but at the same time enjoying a good stretch to release tension from the body. We’re also thinking about light – candle-flames, moonlight and stars. Visualising yourself warm and filled with light is a very nurturing and powerful thing to do, particularly when the days are so short.
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.
Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life, but the ability to cope with it – Unknown.
Yoga gives us the ability to cope with life more easily and not let ourselves be upset so much by what happens to us. We all find ourselves in difficult situations, but we have a choice about how we deal with those situations. We might say ‘They made me so angry’, or ‘They really upset me’. However strange it may seem, we can choose not to become angry or upset. We don’t have to be at the mercy of our mind or emotions, but can learn to ride the waves, and to calm them down. Practicing breathing techniques and relaxing the body helps us to pause, and not to react in habitual ways.
This week in class we’ll be focusing on restorative and calming postures to help us find that inner peace – even if just for a moment or two. You then can learn to string those moments together, until you have a whole long chain of them…………
Easy to say, but not so easy to do. How often do we plan something, then find that our careful plans are thwarted? How often do we have expectations of ourselves or others, then find that we/they don’t live up to those expectations? Generally, we like to feel that we’re in control and don’t like it when we feel out of control.
Remember the river, and go round the obstacles, rather than fight with them. Pause, take a breath and accept.
Yesterday evening, I went to my yoga class (as a student), and found that our room had been double-booked. The venue had another room, but it would take a while to prepare. So my teacher went with the flow. She could have got angry and sent everyone home, but instead, as it was a sunny evening, we did the first part of the class outside. Then calmly came back to the other room when it was ready. It was also a challenge for everyone attending the class. We’re all creatures of habit, choosing the same spot in the same room. So to be faced with going outside, and then a different room isn’t easy. Resistance kicks in, and we think, ‘oh no, it will be cold’, ‘people might see me if we’re outside’, ‘ why did this have to happen?’……… and I’m sure you can think of some others. Pause, take a breath and accept. Enjoy all the benefits of practicing outside on the grass, with trees all around, the blue sky and sunshine.
In my classes, we’ve been working with some seated forward bends, which can teach us about resistance and going with the flow. Accept where you are, breathe into the stretch and gently encourage the body to relax. Let go of the expectations and enjoy where you are at this moment.
See some reflections on listening to your body in the sitting forward bend from one of my friends.
Water has so many images associated with it. Associated with the tears of our emotions, water can be calm, gently flowing or raging like a stormy ocean. Invigorating, cleansing, refreshing – you probably have some words of your own. Reflecting on some of these associations can enhance our yoga practice. Yoga can help to smooth troubled waters and to balance the ups and downs of our emotions. The moon sequence is particularly good for this.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn