The world is intense right now. We keep getting hit with more and more overwhelming news. A lot of us are home schooling or facing isolation during this new lockdown, all made so much more challenging in these dark winter months – so how do we keep going when we feel like we are already running on empty?
We spoke to Steph’s sister-in-law, a yoga teacher and mum in South East London to get her tips on how to stay sane at the moment:
1. Remember your mind/body connection.
Before every yoga class I teach, I get my students to check in with their different bodies. In yoga, we call these koshas. They are like sheaths, and we peel each layer away to see how we are feeling but also learn to notice how they are interconnected.
We start off with our external sheath – our gross bodies – doing a little mental scan from head to toe to see how we are feeling physically, noticing any aches or tingling. Next, we check in with our energetic bodies – how rested are we feeling? What sort of vibe are we projecting? We work out how we are feeling emotionally and then try to see where in the body we might be feeling that emotion: tight chest, achy back, stiff shoulders. Finally, we check in with our mental body – our minds - and see how busy or overactive they are.
For the rest of the class, I invite my students to keep checking in with these koshas to see if the movement and breath can help shift some of the negative energy and allow our minds and bodies to move more into a state of sama, evenness.
This little check up doesn’t have to be part of a yoga practice. You can do it anytime. Find a place to be still and then just check in – see how you’re doing on all these different layers and work out where you might need to dial up or dial down. If you’re tired and overwhelmed, maybe an energising walk in fresh air would help. If you’re frazzled and wired, have a warm bath. And keep checking in, over and over again. Treat your mind and body like you would a small child or a pet that you love – with kindness and compassion. Remember the airplane analogy, you have to look after yourself first before looking after others.
2. Use your breath
An underused resource for finding mental stability is completely free and right under our noses – our breath.
I teach all kinds of breathwork – known as pranayama in the yoga practice, but my favourite is alternate nostril breathing: nadi shodana. It’s translated as nadi purification and is believed to balance the subtle energy or prana of the energetic body.
There are two nadis, energy channels, the ida and the pingala, the masculine and the feminine, that wind their way up the body like a DNA strand from the pelvis up to the nostrils, meeting at chakra points.
When we breathe solely through the left nostril it activates the right side of the brain – the “feminine” side that’s responsible for emotion and creativity. When we breathe solely through the right nostril is stimulates the left side of the brain, the side responsible for the more “masculine” functions of logic and language. So an active breath practice stimulating both hemispheres brings them into balance.
By infusing the body with oxygen, the practice also releases toxins, calms the nervous system, rebalances hormones and enhances mental clarity and concentration.
Perhaps most importantly to all of us though is the fact it can reduce stress, improve cardiovascular response and lower heart rate and blood pressure. So it’s worth a try!
Here are the ins and outs:
- Sit comfortably and start with a couple of normal deep breaths.
- Raise your right hand to your face and press the first two fingers into your forehead.
- With your thumb, very gently close the hole of the right nostril and take a deep breath in through the left. Don’t press too hard, you just have to seal the hole not close it.
- Pause at the top of the inhale.
- Then close the left nostril with your ring finger, take the thumb away from your right nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.
- Breathe in through the right.
- Close the right nostril with your thumb, take the ring finger away from the left nostril and breathe out.
That’s one full round.
Aim for at least 10 rounds and you can gradually work up to more.
You can also work at increasing the exhale. So inhale for a count of four. Hold for two. Exhale for six or even eight counts.
Fun fact that I love to wheel out: Hilary Clinton reckons nadi shadona kept her grounded when she lost the presidency. That’s a pretty powerful endorsement if ever I heard one.
3. Get out in nature
Like G&S founder Steph, I grew up in Africa, so I find these darker winter months in the northern hemisphere very difficult. I have a light lamp, and I take a daily dose of Vitamin D but the thing that works best is wrappig up warm and going out for a walk in nature every day, even when the weather is foul!
I’m an introvert and need time alone to deal with life, especially when I’m stressed. Going for a run in the park on my own, listening to an uplifting podcast, gives me a much-needed endorphin boost and time to clear my head, ready to face my family again.
If you’re not an introvert and you’re actually pretty lonely right now, grab a walking buddy and use the great outdoors as a chance to socialise while you forest bathe!
4. Move your body
It doesn’t have to be much but do try to move your body every day. These days you can find a 10-minute HIIT class on Instagram that might do the trick. Or walking the dog. Or an online yoga class. Think little but often. And try to stay really present while you do it. Focus on your breath. That way, you’re giving your brain a little break from that monkey mind too.
To find out more about Candice Habershon’s yoga classes, visit @candicehabershonyoga or www.candicehabershon.com.