Self care: Yoga hacks to find calm in stressful times
One of Fferal’s digital team is also a yoga teacher. We’ve all felt it a bit this year, so Kayleigh has shared some simple yoga tips for feeling safe, calm and grounded, whatever is going on around us.
We’ve been thinking about what self-care looks like to us here at Fferal HQ. Top of the list for this time of year - snuggling up with a film or a good book in our Fferal loungewear! For the more adventurous of us, de-stressing means plunging ourselves into England’s very cold open waters in group swims organised by Her Spirit. Our adventurous founder Helen chatted about her love for wild swimming with BBC Midlands in November, emphasising the positive impact it has had on her physical and mental wellbeing. Check it out here.
For some (me included), 5 minutes of yoga with a YouTube video, or a few deep breaths in the car, gives us the opportunity to ground and reset, no matter what’s going on around us. There are loads of stereotypes about what it means to be a yogi, including that you have to be super flexible, or super vegan. I completely disagree! There are a number of lessons we can all take away from the practice of mindful movement and connecting to our breath.
Here are three 3 really easy de-stressing yoga hacks for everyone:
1. Breathe deep
It sounds simple, and it is. Lots of us have unhealthy breathing habits, either pausing our breath, or taking short shallow breaths just into our chests. This type of breathing activates the “fight or flight” branch of our nervous system, meaning our normal bodily functions are inhibited and we are more vulnerable to illness and disease. When we take longer, deeper breaths into our belly, we activate the “rest and digest” branch of our nervous system. Slower, deeper breaths relax our heart rate, allow normal digestion and boost our immune function.
Pranayama can be translated to “breath control”and it’s a core component of yoga. Wise Yogis have known about the wide ranging benefits of deep, or yogic breathing for thousands of years - and now many of these benefits are being confirmed by clever scientists.
Armed with this information, we can use our breath almost like a switch, to take us back to “rest and digest”, no matter what’s going on around us. It’s nothing fancy and it’s something anyone can do, simply by pausing for a moment to take a deep breath. Just a couple of slow, deep breaths in and out. Remember, the quality of our breath determines the quality of our lives.
Sit comfortably, with a straight back, ideally cross legged to allow space for your lungs and diaphragm to expand. Inhale a long consistent breath in through both nostrils until you reach your full lung capacity. Hold your breath for 5 seconds, then exhale slowly, again through both nostrils. Try to make a sound with your exhalation breath and keep going until there is no more breath to exhale. You might like to hold your hand gently on your stomach to feel your diaphragm moving in as it empties. Repeat this exercise 5 to 15 times or until whenever feels good!
2. Reconnect to yourself with a full body scan
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Yoga is a journey of transformation and self-discovery. When we become aware of stretching, or strengthening sensations in our body, with a practice of repeated daily awareness we begin to notice differences in our body from one day to the next, or subtle differences between one side of our body and the other. Gathering information about our bodies in a loving and non-judgemental way, is a journey to self acceptance because we learn to be honest with ourselves. Perhaps we sat down for too long this week, or we didn’t get enough sleep - and when we take time to notice the impact this has, we’re more likely to do something about it. Perhaps by committing to more early nights and stepping away from our work for a lunchtime walk.
When we find ourselves in uncomfortable positions on the mat, for example in a shape that’s stretching a super tight area of our body, we can start to notice our habits, the things our bodies naturally do when we’re uncomfortable. We start to notice where we’re gripping or holding on and where we can let go.
For me, it’s clenching my jaw and hugging my shoulders to my ears. Over time, noticing these habits helped me to notice that I do these things when I’m in uncomfortable situations in my daily life too. I’ve learned to release that build up of tension by taking a deep breath, relaxing the space between my eyebrows and lowering my tongue from the roof of my mouth - this is a magic trick for releasing shoulder tension. Try it!
Yoga’s greatest gift is that it’s not a short term fix. Insights reached on the mat ripple over into our daily lives. When we become calmer, healthier and more centred it positively impacts our relationships with those around us, as we become more present for our loved ones too.
Take a moment today, scan your body, check in with how you feel:
- What are your body’s strengths and weaknesses?
- Where are you gripping?
- Where can you let go?
3. Be gentle on yourself - a small commitment will do!
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Some days I need a hot, sweaty, fast vinyasa, and some days I need a slow, restorative flow in my Fferals. Over time, I’ve learned to listen to my body, becoming more intuitive about what I need on any given day. There’s a lot of crazy stuff happening around us at the moment and the practice of yoga reminds us that we can always come back to our breath. We don’t always have to react to the internal mind chatter, or the information we’re gathering from the outside world through our senses. We can arm ourselves with the tools to find clarity, focus and balance. As we stretch and strengthen our bodies, we shift and transform our perspectives, so we can begin to see things differently. You can choose to remain calm, you can choose your reactions. You’ll realise you know yourself better than anyone and you might just be the best teacher you’ve ever had.
Best of all, yoga is for everyone. You don’t even have to have a yoga mat, a towel will do the job. And if nothing else, just take a moment to notice your breath today.
Check out this quick but nourishing ten minute flow for self-care, with our favourite YouTube yogi, Adriene.
Thanks for reading...
Life’s been keeping us all on our toes lately, but we can all take a moment to breathe. So, whatever you’re doing to take care of yourself, whether it’s a nice hot cuppa, 10 minutes of yoga, or even 5 minutes of jumping on the bed - do it with intention! Be honest with yourself about what you need today, in this moment. And most importantly, take a moment to thank yourself for every single loving act of kindness, just as you would when a friend does something to warm your soul.
What simple acts of self care are you committing to this week?
Need some new yoga gear? Shop Fferal sustainable loungewear.