“I was a little excited but mostly blorft. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.” ~ Tina Fey, Bossypants Lately, I’ve been doing a weekly yoga focus, which has been receiving some great feedback. However, for December, I have decided to focus on stress reduction for the entire month. It’s so prevalent in our society at the moment that I feel it deserves to be the focus for more than just one week. As you know, the holiday season can be a time of great joy, but also of great stress. There are gifts to buy, parties to attend, family issues to deal with. All the while, we’re expected to continue doing everything else we normally do (like go to work, school, etc.). The “busyness” of everything thrown at us during this time of year can be overwhelming, and if we’re not careful, it can become detrimental to our health. Personally, this season is proving to be quite stressful for me. I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but I’m noticing that my insomnia is back with a vengeance, I’m getting short of breath and short of temper, and generally just don’t feel like myself. Two weeks ago in my blog post about starting over, I mentioned that I was going to make sure I get on my mat every day for at least 30 minutes. For the most part, I have been able to do this. I’ve only missed two days, and there have been a couple of days where I’ve only had time for 20 minutes. But you know what? It’s a start, right? At least I am getting more mat time than I have been lately, so I’ll take it! Yesterday, I started wondering, “Why am I so stressed, then, when I am getting on my mat MORE? What gives?!” I’m not sure I can answer this yet, but I do know that though yoga as a whole is a great form of exercise for stress relief, it’s essential to make sure to include certain types of poses. So for December, work on making sure to incorporate a variety of the types of poses mentioned below as a way to center yourself, and to become more mindful of the true meaning of this time of year.
- Warrior Poses: Any of the three warrior poses (Warrior 1, Warrior 2 and Warrior 3) are great to incorporate into your practice…choosing to do all three will provide you with the maximum benefits. These standing poses encourage the building of physical strength and stamina. They are also wonderful in nurturing our internal strength, and are excellent in improving self-esteem.
- Twists: Twists are very beneficial for the health of the spine by encouraging spinal circulation, and helping relieve blocked energy channels to the spine. Twists also detoxify organ systems. For example, digestive organs get massaged when you twist, which helps to digest, assimilate and eliminate food. Also, twisting stimulates the whole lymphatic system, which encourages it to release toxins and waste products.
- Inversions: Inversions help our bodies in so many ways! They help detoxify and re-balance the whole body, regulate the thyroid, calm the nervous system, and improve sleep. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as a Headstand. My favorite one, that is accessible to most everyone, is Legs Up the Wall pose(Viparita Karani).
- Backbends: Any backbend will do, but even a simple supported backbend is an antidote to our habitual posture of rounding forward, and will leave you feeling refreshed. To perform a simple supported backbend, all you need is a towel or blanket, and a bolster or firm pillow. Just lie down on your back, and place the bolster or pillow under your shoulder blades, and the towel (slightly rolled) under your neck. Bend your knees and relax your arms above the bolster or pillow on the floor. Stay in the pose for one minute.
- Forward Bends: Again, any forward bend will do, but I love the Ragdoll version of Standard Forward Fold (Uttanasana). Use this as an opportunity to let go of all the tension in your jaws, shoulders, and head. Bend the knees if you have to, and just play with letting the back roll down and relax.
- Centering: Always return to a pose of centering to finish your practice. Final Relaxation (Savasana) is ideal. If you have the time, try to make time for at least 5 minutes in any pose that you find relaxing.
So what are your favorite poses to do when you’re stressed? What about other things that you do to rid yourself of stress (i.e., meditation, breathing exercises, shopping)? I love hearing what works for all of you out there in Blog Land, so please comment and share your tips and tricks. One of my hopes is that by sharing our knowledge with each other, we can truly make a difference in each other’s lives. It’s what yoga is all about!