By Sherry Morton-Jibb RYT, Certified Pilates Instructor
In these tough times when stress levels are so high it is so important to connect to the calmer side of our being. Yoga keeps me connected to my body, mind, & spirit. Injury drew me to Yoga but what I found on the mat kept me there. Practicing Yoga has saved my life and my sanity more times than I can count. Most recently with the onset of Menopause I have truly experienced the benefits of Yoga for anxiety. Menopause is one of the great transformations in a women’s life. Every woman’s experience is a little different. My Menopausal experience has been increased anxiety levels and disturbed sleep patterns. I have always been able to keep my anxiety level in check with my Yoga practice and a healthy lifestyle. Intuitively I knew that I needed to change my home Yoga practice to help increase my relaxation response. While doing my research to create change in my practice I discovered the work of Bo Forbes a Clinical Psychologist and founder of Integrative YogaTheraputics. She specializes in Yoga for Emotional Balance and talks a lot about using Yoga’s more subtle tools (breathing exercises, focused awareness, postural alignment work, and restorative postures) to create change. “These tools will help you become more body and mind aware, more relaxed, and more grounded in the present moment.” (Bo Forbes, Yoga for Emotional Balance) This works on the subtle body to increase the engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system (often referred to as the digest relax nervous system). This practice requires consistency and repetition to be effective. Getting in touch with our breath and relaxing our nervous system which is often stuck in overdrive when we are stressed is a great place to start. For some of us our nervous system never relaxes and is consistently heightened. (Fight or flight response)
Getting to know our breath;
Try using nasal breathing for both the inhale & the exhale if that is comfortable for you.
Find a quiet space where you can spend at least 5 minutes uninterrupted.Lying down on your back wrap a blanket around your waist, place your eye pillow over your eyes and lay a pillow on the front of your body chest to pelvis. Spend a minute getting to know how your mind and body feel right now, then you can observe any change afterwards.
Allow your eyeballs to relax. Visualize them moving inward, dropping gently towards the heart. Breathe in and out through your nose for about 1 minute then start counting the length of your inhale & exhale. Let each count be about 1 second it doesn’t need to be completely accurate. Let your breath be natural and try not to force it. If it feels good for you, start to lengthen your inhale and exhale by 1 count. If this makes you feel anxious then go back to just observing your breath. Essentially the most important thing is to relax and breathe.