What do you think might happen if you stopped/dropped everything for a moment and allowed yourself space to simply pause, breathe and BE?
Would the world come crashing down - you along with it?
Would you not ticking something off your to-do list have tragic consequences?
Would your business crumble and fade into oblivion?
Would the washing/dishes (insert menial chore here) pile up and never get done?
Would life as you know it go on?
Seriously though, what WOULD happen if you took some time out for you - if you gave YOU the same energy you give your family, business, social media or whatever it is that consumes most of your attention and focus?
What I know to be true is that NOT taking this time out is having dire consequences on women's overall level of health and wellbeing.
Stuck in chronic 'busyness', and 'doing', women everywhere are suffering.
If your journey mirrors mine (like so many of us), then you might be experiencing one (or many) of the following issues in your daily life:
+ Poor quality, irratic or very little sleep
+ Digestive problems
+ Ongoing stress and anxiety
+ Chronic pain
+ Exhaustion and fatigue
+ Mood swings
+ Fertility and cycle issues
And these are some of the less serious of the ripple effect that can occur when we never stop. Auto-immune issues are on the rise (read about my journey with FIBROMYALGIA here), and Adrenal Fatigue has been labelled the '21st century Stress Syndrome'.
We are tuned in, switched on, plugged in and consuming way more meaningless information than is healthy for our mind and body.
We are constantly on the go,overly busy and overwhelmed with choice.
And we wonder why we are unwell.....
So with all this societal pressure asking us to DO MORE, what then can we do to crack this vicious cycle before the breakdown?
How can we find simple ways to recharge when life is so full and busy?
Today I am sharing 5 simple tools with you.
These practises are still my favourite 'go-to's' as I navigate my own health issues, and have had a profound impact on my ongoing healing journey.
The beauty and gift of these simple tools is to quickly bring you back to the moment in times of high stress and to gently calm your nervous system and your mind.
Some of the ways it can help are to:
restore the length of your spine / release the psoas muscle / allow breathing to return to an easy + natural state / soothe the nervous system / Quieten the mind / Decrease stress and anxiety / Relieve chronic pain / Revitalise the whole system
HOW TO PRACTISE:
+ Come to lie on the back with the feet on the floor and the knees bent. Ensure that the feet, knees and hips are all in alignment. Ideally you want to get a sense that the legs are holding themselves up (I like to think of the lower and upper leg bones like 2 playing cards leaning against each other - effortlessly when in the right position)
+ Start to become aware of the rest of the body - if the neck is feeling uncomfortable a folded blanket or towel can be placed underneath for support.
+ Connect in with the breath and slowly begin to explore all the sensations that are arising. Feel where there is tension in the body, notice any emotions or feelings that arise, watch for any associated thoughts or stories.
+ Slowly the body will begin to unwind and the 'relaxation response' - an aspect of the parasympathetic nervous system - will be triggered, soothing the whole system.
Stay with the breath and your experience.
+ Stay for as long as it feels good, a minimum of 5 minutes though to really glean the benefits.
Simply lying in this position for 5 -10 minutes every day can work wonders for you.
Check out more info HERE
Legs up the wall
It can help to:
Calm the mind / Soothe the nervous system / Give the adrenals a chance to rest and recalibrate / Release the psoas muscle and lower back / Improve circulation / Revitalise the body / Balance the hormonal system in the body/ Quieten the mind
How to practise:
+ Come to sit on the floor with one hip resting near the wall and simultaneously roll the legs up the wall as the torso and head come to rest on the floor.
+ The legs can be slightly apart and as far away from the wall as you need to find ease and comfort in the pose (we are not looking for a hamstring stretch in this option)
+ A blanket may feel lovely under the head to support the neck.
+ You might also likes some support under the sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of the spine) so place a soft blanket there as well.
+ Arms can be by the side of the body (palms to the sky) or resting on the belly.
+ Breathe, relax and enjoy.
+ Stay as long as feels good (at least 5 minutes minimum if you can manage it)
This is a safe and passive inversion perfect for your moon (bleeding) time.
+ Bring the legs up on to a chair, bed or the lounge
+ Make sure the whole lower leg is supported
+ Come into and out of the pose as you would legs up the wall
Brahmari - Humming Bee Breath
Brahmari is one of many ancient yogic pranayama breathing practises with a long list of wonderful benefits for the whole being - physically, emotionally and mentally.
The practise of Pranayama in it's many forms assists in cultivating a deep connection with the flow of prana (life force) within the body.
This amazing practise can:
+ Reduce anxiety, agitation and stress.
+ Quieten the mind.
+ Soothe the nervous system by triggering the parasympathetic 'relaxation response'.
+ Enhance mental focus and concentration.
+ Ease fatigue.
+ Reduce anger and frustration.
+ Help reduce blood pressure.
+ Elicit feelings of joy.
HOW TO PRACTISE
There are a variety of different ways to practise humming bee breath.
We are going to explore one of the easiest and gentlest (I love making it as simple as possible!)
+ Find a comfortable seated position - use whatever support you need to ensure that the spine stays erect and the hips are higher than the knees.
A cushion or blanket under the buttocks will help with this. Alternatively use a chair if you need a little extra support.
+ Take a moment to settle into the posture, allowing the tail bone to lengthen down into the earth and the crown to reach for the sky. Connect in with the natural breath and close the eyes so that the focus turns inwards.
+ Bring the hands up towards the head. Block the ear by placing the thumb gently onto the tragus (the flared bit of the ear, not in the ear itself) and place the fingers lightly on the head (see pic below)
+ Take an inhalation in through the nostrils (keeping the lips closed together) and as you exhale make the sound of the letter Mmmm - like a buzzing bee.
+ Continue to breath in through the nose and allow the out-breath to be a humming Mmmm sound.
+ Keep up the practise for a few minutes or as long as it feels good.
+ If at any time you begin to feel any discomfort or strain, then release the practise and return to the natural tidal breath.
+ Take some time after you have finished to sit quietly and notice how you feel from doing the practise. Has the mind quietened? Is there less anxiety or frustration? Do you feel more relaxed?
This truly is a calming and soothing way to spend a few minutes, and a fairly effortless way to move out of overwhelm, anxiety or stress.
Extended Exhalation Breathing
+ Switches off the stress response and trigger the relaxation response
+ Can move you quickly out of overwhelm, anxiety and stress
+ Helps to calm the mind
+ Brings you back to the present moment
How to practise
+ Come into any comfortable seated or lying position and begin to connect with the natural breath. Slowly start to align your inhale and exhale to be the same length(a 4:4 ratio is a good starting point) - so breathe in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 4.
+ Eventually begin to extend the exhale by 2 counts (4:6 ratio).
Breath in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 6.
+ Make sure there is no sense of straining with the breath, and cease the practise at any time if it feels uncomfortable
+ Allow a natural pause at the top of the inhalation and at the end of the exhalation. Use a ratio that works for you depending on the length of your breath (my count may not be right for you) Stay with this for even just a few minutes and notice how you feel.
Falling Out Breath
This is one of my favourites!
+ soothes an overstressed nervous system
+ activates the vagus nerve to trigger the relaxation response
+ quietens the mind
+ releases physical, emotional and mental tension
How to practise
+ Come into any comfortable position (though a supported child’s pose is a great posture for this practise)
+ Begin by connecting with the natural breath - breathing in and out of the nose.
+ After a few breaths start to breathe in through the nose and out through an open mouth as a sighing breath. You can add more sound to the sigh if that feels good. Notice as tension and ‘holding’ just melt away!
These beautiful tools are simple, but please don't confuse this with a less potent result! The magic rests in the subtleties of these practises cultivated over time - though initially you may find yourself feeling challenged or confronted by slowing things down (we are of course a society of doers!).
I invite you to try them in times of stress and then to simply stay curious as you notice how you feel.
I'd truly love to know if you already bring any of these practises into your life and how they work for you, or if they are new how they might be helping.
So please do let me know in the comments your experiences, and any other simple tools that you LOVE to use to quickly calm your nervous system.
Until next time - may your days be slow, gentle and filled with loving Self Care!