Welcome to the second part of our new series focusing on health, wellbeing and yoga with Stacey Baxter of Muladhara Yoga.
When I was first introduced to yoga, my immediate thoughts were stretching and someone looking incredibly uncomfortable in a pretzel looking position. I didn’t immediately think mindfulness, rest or stress relief.
Now however, when I think of yoga, stretching is secondary, mindfulness is primary, which in my opinion is the way it should be.
Yoga has its physical benefits of course, but in my experience the mental benefits far outweigh the physical. I could be having the worst day and yoga will completely change my perspective.
To put this into context, let’s paint a picture together, one most of us will know well…
You’ve had a restless night’s sleep, overthinking work, tossing and turning. Wake up late, walk the dog (it’s raining and windy), waiting for the dog to do ‘it’s business’ whilst battling with the wind and poo bag. Walk home ,get dressed, head to work (efforts made to look good, but realistically what’s the point, as you’ll still look like a drowned rat when you get to work anyway – that’s the negative irritated vibe we’re going with here). The day is filled with deadlines, pressure and someone (there’s always one) who goes out of their way just to annoy you. Are you feeling the pain yet?
So, you leave work feeling irritated, tense and stressed. No doubt that negative energy will be taken home and continue to ruin your evening, unless there’s a bottle of merlot involved – are you with me?.
We have all been there, whether the day is made up of different challenges, we can wake up on the ‘wrong side of the bed’ and continue to let it ruin our day and so forth.
For me, this changes the moment I practice yoga.
I could be feeling like the world has ended, when it could potentially be a minor problem that isn’t actually that bad (dramatic I know), but the moment I step into the yoga class – ahhhh, namaste, the world is a much more wonderful place.
The music, the space, the ambience, I immediately feel this sense of relief from letting the day go, as in that moment nothing else matters but having sixty minutes of ‘me’ time.
I lay down and wait for the teacher to start, I switch off, I go internal, I breathe. I close my eyes and feel my body move. Thoughts dissipate from my mind.
By the time the hour is up, I feel calmer, my problems are no longer problems, and I go home ready for a restful evening and deep sleep.
This isn’t to say yoga is the magical cure to solving a rubbish day and all your problems will disappear, but it certainly helps let go of the day and shift your mindset, making those issues much easier to handle. The simple shift of focus to your breath helps remove the mind chatter and slows down your heart rate, the movement in the body stimulates energy, movement in the spine improves spinal fluid circulation, the slower breath improves the flow of oxygen and blood flow to the brain, which collectively increases mental clarity and removes brain fog.
The moral of the story… Stop, stretch and breathe.
If you’re feeling stressed and don’t have time for a sixty-minute stretch, get down on your hands and knees and get in two minutes of ‘cat and cow’ movement to help get those spinal juices flowing! See below for a quick tutorial on the Cat and Cow movement.
Join me in the next article, when we will delve into the benefits of breathwork.
Cat and cow steps:
- Get on your hands and knees, with the tops of the feet flat on the floor, ensure your hands are stacked underneath your shoulders and your knees are both hip width apart and stacked beneath your hips – anyone with knee problems, grab a pillow or fold your matt over for extra comfort.
- Start lifting your chest and sitbones (basically your bottom!) towards the sky. Imagine trying to drop your belly button down towards the floor, draw your shoulder blades together and gaze up. You should feel a nice stretch through the centre of your spine and across your chest. You are now in your first “cow” pose
- Changing direction, start rounding your spine, pushing the floor away to help push the middle of your back up towards the sky. This time draw your belly button in and feel your shoulders broaden. Tuck your chin into your chest and gaze through your legs. You are now in your first angry cat position.
- Lets add in the breath. Inhale as you move into your cow pose (step 2) and as you exhale ,start moving into your angry cat pose (step 3). Repeat and feel free to close your eyes whilst moving so you can really get into the poses and help remove any distractions.
This article is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.