Beating Stress by Slowing Down

Simple Yoga for the month of March

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March blew in beast-like from all sides, trampling down the fresh shoots, darkening the sky and then leaving just as abruptly. Amidst the worst of weather we Moved House. I feel it deserves capitals, it felt like such a major happening. Suddenly the to-do list exploded and the joy of a fresh new space was tempered by a million boxes to unpack and a 3 year old child to be broken out of a locked loo.

I find it really hard to do one thing at a time so the house was also instantly filled with workmen – painting, building, laying carpet, doing things with cables. I started to feel very overwhelmed, always slightly on the edge of tears and I realised that by rushing into things so quickly I have added unnecessary stress to an already fraught situation.

So, my intent for March is to Slow Down. Not to stop everything but to slow down the things that have to be done. To do one thing at a time and act mindfully.

Easier said than done but the easiest way to achieve this is to start with the breath. If we slow down the breath then we can change how we feel.

Deep Belly Breathing (Yogic Breathing)

In overwhelm we tend to breathe from our chest and sometimes we even feel it in our collar bones and throats.

We did not do this as children! Children naturally breathe deeply. Watch a small baby breathing and will can the little belly rise and fall.

Practicing Deep Belly breathing draws your breath down to the diaphragm so your breath is deeper and slower. When you draw your breath down towards your diaphragm your belly will also rise and fall. Just to be clear, you are still breathing into your lungs, yoga can only do so much!

Here is how to do it. You can practice this seated but I find it more relaxing lying down.

  • Close your eyes.
  • Place one hand just above the belly and one on the heart area.
  • Take a few full deeps breaths and notice where you are breathing. Feel your ribs expanding and lifting with your inhale and fully emptying on the exhale.
  • Now draw your attention down to your diaphragm, the area around your lower ribs. Breathe into this space and allow your hands to move out and up with the inhale and back in with the exhale.
  • Take your time, allow the magic to happen.

In Your Practice

In your yoga practice, mindfully take longer breaths in each pose. Appreciate each pose for what it is.

In the more challenging poses, do not rush to the end ‘goal’.

Take one breath per movement, or even more, to transition into a new posture. Racing ahead to the final “end” pose is a sure fire way of face planting. I know this from experience!

A Lifestyle MOT

We cannot always change the circumstances leading to stress but we can make sure that our lifestyle isn’t making it worse.

When I am feel unusually stressed, these are the things that I know will help:

  1. Cutting out the caffeine. Caffeine makes me crazy anxious;
  2. Reducing screen-time – ditto, the fight/flight is ON with the constant inbox pings;
  3. Spending more time outside surrounded by nature;
  4. Taking time out away from the stressors.

We all know what we need to do, right?

It isn’t rocket science but sometimes we need a gentle kick up the ass to remind ourselves.

I hope your ass has been well, truly and lovingly kicked.


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