Physical and mental health is so important, but even more so right now, whilst the world is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, we are home working, and home schooling, and its important you do not forget about you.
Unfortunately, alongside lots of other businesses across the word Yoga Den closed its doors on Friday 20th March, with no plans in place of reopening anytime soon. Yoga Den has been a place of peace and tranquillity for so many Northumbrians for the past 15 months so keeping a strong sense of community has been imperative.
Yoga is not just about getting into a physical posture, but also about self-care and self-love. Since lockdown measures were announced, many people have struggled to find a routine where they are nurturing their physical and mental selves, as well as sticking to their usual routine. To help you to take the lead in self-care and self-love I have created a 10 step guide.
Step 1: Get physical
Getting physical does not necessarily mean going for a 10k run every day (unless that’s what you love), but to ensure you are moving and breathing freely each day. There are so many free exercise classes online to choose from, enjoy perusing and try supporting a local business with a small donation or a page share on social media. Everyone’s talking about Joe Wicks, right now, but he’s not for everyone, go to Youtube and find something that floats your boat, whether it be Yoga, Pilates, Zumba or boxercise, there will be something online that will get you moving. If an online workout isn’t what you a looking for, use your outside time to go for a walk, and take notice of our beautiful town whilst it’s quiet.
Step 2: Stretch
I have taught Yoga for three years, and practiced for a lifetime, but it always surprises me how many people never stretch. Step 2 is to stretch, so here’s my challenge to you. When you wake up tomorrow, stand up and stretch up to the ceiling, then side bend to the left and to the right, bring the arms around the back lace the fingers and lift the arms squeezing the shoulders blades together, and see how much better you feel. If you enjoy it, which you will, try to do it every day and start adding extra little movements as you get used to the stretch.
Stretching is a great way to wake the body up, it relieves stress and anxiety, decreases any muscle ache and improves the posture. Stretching is the physical aspect of Yoga, so when you start to feel the benefit of these minimal stretches, have a look into Yoga or Pilates. Try Sun salutations A for a get up and go first thing in the morning.
Step 3: Create a sacred space
Being at home with our loved ones, which is usually a place of peace and love, might now be starting to feel more like a war zone. It is essential to allow yourself ‘space’ in your home for quiet reflection; space could be a spare bedroom, a seat in your garden, a place in your bedroom that is free from distractions or maybe you’re lucky enough to have a garage or shed that could be transformed into your very own scared space.
The third step is to clear a place for you and only you to escape to when you need five minutes. Make your space any way you would like, add plants, a soft cushion, a scented candle some incense sticks, just whatever you ned to feel peaceful and relaxed. Be creative, and make sure your loved ones are aware that this is yours, and when you go there to not disturb you.
Step 4: Breathe
Breathing techniques or pranayama as it is known in yoga, can be a way to feel grounded and centred at times of stress. We all breathe but learning to breathe in different ways has lots of benefits. For example, prevents anxiety and stress, increases energy levels, ensures the lungs are being used to the full capacity, improves digestion, and keeps you calms and centred. Wow, all those benefits just from breathing.
Try this easy conscious breathing technique:
Inhale for a count of 4, pause the breath for a count of 4, exhale count of 4, pause the breath for 4. Repeat this 6-10 times, have a break and do it again. Take note of how you feel as you breathe. (Do not pause the breath if you are suffering from any respiratory issues).
If breathing techniques interests you, there are lots of pranayama exercises for free online.
Step 5: Meditate
The art of mediation can be difficult to master and is sometimes why people have a tendency to try and then not stick to it. Our brains are working all the time, which is perfectly natural, the key here is to allow the mind to concentrate on something else other than your thoughts or to do lists. Guided meditations are a great starting point for newbies, YouTube has hundreds of free guided meditations to try, and there are apps like headspace and Calm which are a good option too.
Try this counting meditation to help you centre:
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Connect and concentrate to your breath, focusing just on your inhales and exhales. Once you feel your heart rate slow, think of the number 100. Begin to count backwards, 99…98…97…96 and so on. Every time your mind thinks of something else other than the next number, return to 100 and start over. Take note how you feel when you each number 1, and realise how still the mind has been.
Step 6: Be Grateful
We concentrate on gratitude a lot in Yoga, it is a mindful practice and helps focus on what is important in life. Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. What are you thankful for today?
Saying to yourself each day “I am grateful for…” adds a ray of sunshine into each day.
In January I ran a yoga retreat where we created gratitude jars. You can use an old sauce or jam jar and decorate it (if you are feeling creative), and then every day write what you are grateful for on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. Whenever you feel down, depressed, or sad, you can reach in the jar and pull out something to be grateful for.
I am grateful for the health of my family and friends.
I am grateful for the sunshine.
I am grateful for my dog.
I am grateful for clean, running water.
No matter how dark the day, thee is always something to be grateful for.
Step 7: Get connected
Let us get back to calling our friends and family. Texting and emailing have become the norm but making a quick phone call to check in on a friend or a colleague can mean the absolute world right now. Life was too busy before, but now we have time to make that call and speak to other human beings. Facetime or video calls are another great way to stay connected, you could even set up a virtual coffee date with some friends. I have loved seeing pictures of family quiz nights, coffee dates and games evenings via Facetime and skype on social media, so stay connected and get creative, and make sure you are talking with friends and family regularly.
Step 8: Get Learning
If you’ve been furloughed or perhaps your business has had to close like mine, use this extra free time to learn. There are lots of sites out there offering discounted and even free courses, you could upskill in something to do with your job or maybe learn a new skill like cooking or painting. Tiddly Painters are offering donation-based classes on Facebook, and Healthy Prep Kitchen are publishing their recipes on Instagram. Try not to wallow, and make this time about learning and creating something new.
Step 9: Get eating
It’s so easy to opt for the comfort food like crisps, chocolate and cake, and take advantage of some of the takeaways that are still open. This is fine sometimes, but try to be mindful of what you’re putting into your body, ensure you are still getting your 5 portions for fruit and veg each day, drink water, and stick to meal times as best as you can. Incorporate step 8 and 9, and learn to cook, bake using as much fresh produce as you can.
Step 10: Get to sleep
Disturbed sleep is a biproduct of uncertain times, and I for one know about insomnia. If you are struggling with your sleep routine, there are lots of practices that can help you fall asleep. All of the first 9 steps will help your routine and relieve anxiety and stress you may be feeling.
A few extra sleep tips include no caffeine after 5pm, no tv/phone/iPad/laptops in the bedroom before sleep (blue light is a no no), have a bath before bed and keep the lights low. Try not tot read or listen to the news or anything that will keep your mind awake and active before going to bed, and don’t be angry with yourself if you can’t sleep, just breathe and try the 100-1 counting meditation.
In these uncertain times it is lovely to see and feel the Morpeth community online. I hope that you stay health, safe and positive over the near future and look forward to opening my studio doors soon.
If you would like to get involved follow @christieharleyyoga on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. If you love Yoga or would like to start, there are over 40 online classes available at www.patreon.com/christeharleyyoga