How yoga can help with lockdown stress and counteract sitting
It’s no secret that for many of us we have felt a great deal of stress during lockdown. Not only that but for many people now working from home or just being at home there is more time spent sitting and less time moving. This is causing havoc with our backs and shoulders and as well as our nervous systems which are completely out of balance.
Here are 5 ways that you can implement some yoga techniques and postures to help alleviate aches and pains, mobilise stiff areas, create strength where you need it and find a sense of calm in uncertain times. When we sit for long periods of time our hip flexors become tight, our glutes become stretched and weak and our shoulders become rounded. The following yoga postures are designed to
- mobilise the spine and integrate the muscles of the core and back.
- Strengthen the glutes
- Activate the stability of the shoulder and reverse any extreme rounding
Drop out of the mind and into the body
We spend so much time in our heads thinking, worrying, imagining the worst so one of the first things to do is to begin to notice and observe the body and breath. Begin to notice your breathing pattern, does it feel chaotic or calm? Where in your body do you feel your breath? Is it in the belly, the chest, a mix of both? Is your inhale the same length of the exhale or are they different? As we begin to notice these things, we start to focus on our bodies and move away from the mind.
Seal the mouth and breathe only through the nose, see if you can think about sipping the inhale rather than gulping it in. Imagine the breath like a delicate thread and as you breath in take the breath into the depth of the belly. Your belly will begin to expand and that will progress into the lower ribs. As you exhale, control the breath out at the same pace, like that delicate thread is now unravelling. You want to aim for about 5 seconds for the inhale and 5 seconds for the exhale. This is called coherent or resonant breathing and begins to have a calming effect on the body. Despite what you might think your breath doesn’t need to be big and expansive, a soft, slow, light breath is good and a perfect way to reduce anxiety.
Come into a table top position on all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Gently press the floor away with the hands and feel a sense of activation into your core. As you inhale in the same way as before, lift your tailbone and the crown of your head up to the sky, thinking about drawing the shoulder blades down. As you exhale move in the opposite direction by drawing the navel in, tucking your tailbone under and drawing your chin towards your chest. Continue to move between these two positions coordinating movement with breath.
Lying down on your front, place your forearms on the ground so that your elbows are underneath your shoulders and your forearms are parallel to each other. Bring your big toes and your heels together and press the tops of your feet into the ground then begin to tuck your tailbone under to activate the glutes. Press your forearms into the ground and draw the shoulder blades down the back and have a sense of your chest reaching forward. Notice the activation through the whole of the back and stay here for a few breaths.
From standing, step one foot behind into a lunge bending your front knee and keeping your knee aligned above your ankle. With your back leg straight, press the toes of the back foot firmly down into the ground. As you do this, you will notice your glute activate. As you continue to press the ground away with both feet, imagine your hips are hugging your legs into your hip sockets, try and lengthen through your waist and lift your arms above your head. Feel a sense of engagement through the whole body and stay connected with your breath. After a few breaths, swap to the other leg.
Yoga is so much more than just physical postures, though it’s a pretty good place to start. Essentially yoga offers a sense of mind body integration to heighten our self awareness and that can enable us to make better choices and also become more compassionate to others. But you should find that these few postures begin to counteract the effects of sitting and that spending some time connecting to the breath and practicing the above breathing method can bring a sense of balance and calm to your nervous system.
Cat Merrick runs Breathe Dance & Yoga and is based in Shrewsbury. For more details on her classes follow her on Facebook and Instagram at @breathedanceandyoga