Please Press “0” for an operator! So did you ever have the experience of having to call an insurance, electric, phone or any huge congomlerate with the uptmost of dread? Well, I approached my impending call to a certain insurance company yesterday with the same dread that I would envision a root canal or a colonoscopy. My breath got shorter, I found my breakfast compacted into my much smaller, more tension ridden stomach, my shoulders went into defensive mode and landed at my ears. And so on and so on. I anticipated a long wait, a senseless customer service representative, and the perpetual passing of the customer baton. So, how did it go? The actual call and resolution was nothing like I imagined. A courteous knowledgeable representative, yes a high call volume but the call was still answered within five minutes and no passing me along like a hot potato. Resolution achieved but my own self-projection of what I thought the experience would be, not so great. Physically, I felt horrible, residual stomach pains, neck and shoulders ached and the breath was just beginning to slow down and regulate. Why do I do this to myself – get all worked up about something that hasn’t even happened?
Work in Progress on that one but I will tell you how I calmed down afterwards. First, I thanked the representative for being professional and finding the resolution. They always appreciate that and good karma abound. I got off the phone, and took some deep slow breaths in through the nose and out with a sigh through the mouth. I sent a mental note of gratitude to those people who are doing a good job and are helpful and another mental note of encouragement to those learning the ropes. A few gentle stretches and a nap brought me further balance. My next challenge is to bring some of the relaxation tools to the exact moment I need them i.e. during the situation. And then after that, try not to project outcomes before they even happen.
Left Nostril Breathing
Benefits: Left nostril breathing is a very quick and effective way to wind down and get into sleep mode. This is because the left nostril is connected to the right hemisphere of the brain, which can activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system counteracts the stress effect, calming you down, slowing heart rate, cooling you down, and increasing digestion. For more information, check out the term “ida” which is the left side of our brain. The opposite is “pingala” the sympathetic nervous system, right side.
Use the thumb or index finger of the right hand to gently close the right nostril. Breathe long and deep for three minutes or until you fall asleep. You can do this sitting or lying down. Lying on your right side will help open the left nostril. I like to allow my tongue to travel to the roof of my mouth in this breath to root my focus on my third eye (middle of the forehead). Also placing my index and middle finger at the third eye assists in activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
Wide Angle Forward Fold
Props: bolster, two blocks, 4 or more blankets, neck roll (optional)
Benefits: releases the pelvis which can help release tension in the buttocks, hips, belly and lower back. Quiets the organs of digestion and elimination. Opens lower back area. As head rests on bolster, releases tension in frontalis where we hold stress in contracted state. Cooling and calming to overall body and provides a nice transition from day.
Depending upon the length of your torso, you may or may not need the blocks under the bolster. A double-folded blanket folded over one more time adds height and comfort. Place as many of these as you need on top of the bolster. Cushions and pillows are also good. You will straddle the props bringing them in as close to your body as possible to support you as you forward fold. Forehead can be resting on a neck pillow or turn side to side on props. Arms can be by sides of props, resting on legs or if using blocks under the props. To lesson any strain in the lower back, sit on a single or double-fold blanket. Stay for 20 minutes.
*note that for some students the breath can be constrained. Practice belly breaths to begin with .
Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Props: 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow
Extras: blanket for warmth, strap for legs
Benefits: Expands the chest muscles, opens the lungs, balances the glands, quiets the nerves and releases tension in the nervous system, increases oxygen intake to the brain, can stimulate the immune system (thyroid)
Make two stacks of two double or triple fold blankets on top of each other. Placed the two stacks end to end. Height and width of blankets can be adjusted for your body. Sit down straddling one of the stacks and carefully lower yourself down onto forearms, swing your legs on to other stack and lie down. Neck roll is placed at top stack, lower shoulder and head to floor. Neck is supported by neck roll and head is completely flat on floor with forehead and chin on the same plane. Arms stretched out to the sides. The stacks of blankets should be long enough for the entire body to be resting on including the feet. Option to put strap around calves if the legs are rolling outward. Stay for up to 15 minutes. Roll off blankets slowly and bring knees to chest with some movement.
Sublime Side Lean
Props: 2 or 3 pillows or blankets
Benefits: Stretches the torso and provides a gentle twist which allows a release in tension in the lower back area.
Place 2 or 3 blankets or pillows lengthwise. Lie on right side with hip at the base of the blankets or pillows. Torso should rest on the stack. Right arm should be under the head. The left arm can reach over the head to increase the stretch. Close your eyes and allow your body to relax and release any stress or tension. Slowly sit up and switch sides for the same amount of time.
Focus on your breath. Breath into your right side allowing that gentle stretch to travel from the tip of your fingers down your lower spine. Sense the left side of your body gently melting and surrendering to the ground beneath you. All tension and stress being recycled by mother earth. Sense the gentle letting go of your muscles and knowing that you are safe and supported. Breath deep and exhale soft and long.
Props: 2 blankets double-fold stacked end to end, towel
Benefits: Relieves stress in the back muscles, allows for a more secure feeling than in a basic savasana, replenishes the body with oxygen after practice, and quiets the mind.
Place two double-fold blankets side by side, stacked next to each other lengthwise. Lie down on your belly, as you turn your head to the right (place a towel where your head is). Bend your right knee at a 90 degree angle and place on blankets. Bring arms to goddess arms out to either side. To stay warm and secure, cover yourself with a blanket before settling into the pose. Stay with the right side for 5 minutes and then gently switch to other side as you turn the left knee out and the head to the left. This is an alternative to savasana with back on floor or a side-lying savasana.
Yesterday’s class encompassed many poses to help support your back and get relief from pain, moving the spine in many directions while being completely supported in each with the props, your breath and awareness. Here are some more back care suggestions from Elise Browning Miller. Link to Inneridea.com.
What did you discover about yourself while in the restorative poses offered during the series? The discovery can be an eureka moment about your physical, emotional or spiritual self. And perhaps, the discovery occurred post-class. Jot down your observations without qualifying them.