Soothe Your Frazzled Nerves
Over the last few months, so many students and friends have come to me saying how the weight of the world has been effecting their stress levels. With the truly scary political climate, disasters, violence, systematic injustice, oppression of women, people of color, and other marginalized groups...yeah, the world is pretty stressful right now. Unfortunately, no one really teaches us how to cope with stress like that. The body wasn't even MADE to handle this kind of chronic stress.
When we experience fear, anxiety, or stress, our sympathetic nervous system kicks our fight-or-flight instincts into gear which can 1) save you if you're really needing to best a wooly mammoth right now or 2) chronically stress your endocrine system over time. In the world of our ancestors, the fight or flight response was one of the most vital tools humans possessed - we could become almost superhuman in the face of danger! But we weren't running into life or death situations every day and our adrenals haven't evolved as fast as our ever growing to-do lists do daily.
We're no longer living like our caveman predecessors - our bodies are often shocked by the overstimulation of city living, negative emotions triggered by the news, and on a more subtle level, through day to day stress. These stressors engage our sympathetic nervous system which taxes our adrenals, causing more fatigue, discomfort, illness, etc. Stress just leads to more stress!
So what do we do about it? We learn how to rest. We practice feeling. We decide to do something before we completely burn-out and forget what true relaxation feels like. In Yoga, we accomplish this through Restorative Postures which automatically engage the parasympathetic nervous system - our relaxation response.
A restorative practice relaxes the body, provides deep opening of muscles, soothes menstrual symptoms, improves digestion, and can help relieve feelings of anxiety and depression. It's also a great excuse to lay on the floor for an hour in the most cozy way possible - a real win-win if you ask me.
Here's a sequence to soothe your frazzled nerves:
Start off your restorative session with warm-ups like the Purna Yoga Hip Series, Marjarasana, Gomukhasana and Garudasana. Then prepare for deep relaxation! Make sure that you have all of the props you need nearby and slip on a pair of cozy socks to stay warm. You'll need: a bolster (or a few folded blankets stacked to create the shape of one), a belt, blanket, mat, and two blocks.
1. Heart Opening Position - 5 Minutes
Opens throat Muscles, Increases Breath Capacity, + moves spine into the body
Position your bolster perpendicular to the long end of your mat with enough room for your head to rest towards the floor. Sit in front of the bolster - with your knees bent, lay down and make sure that the space between your shoulder blades is centered on the bolster. Your ribcage should be supported and your head able to touch the ground. Bring your arms into a T with your palms facing up like in the image. Straighten your legs and have your feet hip distance apart. Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. As you inhale, feel your ribcage expanding and opening. Exhaling, allow your body to completely relax.
2. Side Ribcage opening - 3 Minutes, each side
Opens the intercostals, Diaphragm, and Shoulder
From the same position as above, roll onto your left side and center your rib cage with the middle of the bolster. Extend your left arm up overhead and rest your head on your left arm. If this is uncomfortable for you, fold a blanket and place it between your arms to support you. Bend the knees slightly and make sure that your knees and ankles are stacked. Extend your right arm up overhead and rest it on top of your left arm. On the inhalation, feel the expansion of your side body and as you exhale release any and all effort in your body. Stay here for a few minutes and then come back into heart opening position for 12 breaths. Then repeat Side Ribcage Opening on your right side. End in Heart Opening Position.
3. Supta Badha Konasana - 5 Minutes
Opens the hips, calms the nervous system, + Nourishes Digestive System
Switch the position of your bolster to the backside of your mat parallel to the long edge. Fold your blanket in half and place it on your bolster to support your head. Sit 1-2 inches in front of your bolster. Bring the soles of your feet together and place the belt around your waist and tie it in a loop (with no twists!) Bring the loop around your feet and tighten the belt so that you're comfortable, but contained. Place blocks under your knees. Lie down on your bolster with your head resting on the blanket. Rest your arms to your sides with your palms facing up. Close your eyes and relax. Feel your belly become soft and wide as you rest in this pose for 5-7 minutes.
4. Pranayama Position - 7 Minutes
Calms the Nervous System + Prepares us for deeper pranayama
From Supta Badha Konasana, reach for the buckle of your belt and loosen it enough so that you can straighten your legs. Have your ankles hip distance apart and settle into the pose. Exhaling, feel your legs releasing into the mat below you as your body completely relaxes. Now bring your attention to your breath. Make your inhalation the same length as your exhalation and rest here for 5-7 minutes. To come out of the pose, slowly bend your knees and bring your feet to the mat. Roll over to your right side, make a pillow with your right arm and rest here for a few breaths. Press your right hand into the floor to bring yourself to a seated position and feel the effects of the pose.
Wrap up this sequence with a nice long Savasana. Pranayama Position can be used as Savasana if you are short on time. Sometimes laying still in silence can be tough! I get it. But work to calm your mind by focusing on your breathing and settling into your body. Allow the thoughts and feelings that come up to drift away as you let go and relax.
Have alignment or modifications questions? Let's meet for a 75 Minute Private Yoga Class where you'll learn warm-ups and a full restorative sequence with the modifications just for you. Click here to schedule your restorative session or contact me to learn more!