Category Archives: Stress relief and relaxation

It’s nearly the weekend but learning to manage your energy and use stress to your advantage will have you enjoying every day much more

Meditating with the MagnifiCat

MeditatingwiththeMagnifiCat

Clients and students often ask me about creating and sustaining a meditative practice when their children are demanding their time, energy and attention.

I recommend making them a part of their practice (being fully present with whatever’s going on). Sometimes, I tell them about how I use Rainbow MagnifiCat’s interruptions during the day to enhance my mindfulness practice. As she looks expectantly for attention, I make my lap available for her, pausing work or whatever (unless I’m with a telephone or online client, obviously) and relax into the Rainbow Appreciation Time, hearing her purr, feeling her fur (and claws and weight) and generally feeling pleasantly present and grounded.

This morning, I realised that this is not (of course) the full story. Most days, I let her out while I do my morning meditation and a little yoga. My eyes frequently open and glance towards the door, checking in case she wants to come in.

This morning, with a lot of pent up energy from her snow avoiding time indoors yesterday, she didn’t want to go out while I meditated. I told her (and her angel) that I’d be meditating and focusing on my experience yet still noticed myself getting very distracted. Lots of opportunities this morning for noticing this (with as much self-compassion and curiosity as I could muster) and gently bringing my mind back to the meditation.

And Rainbow’s a cat. Babies and children (and puppies and goats etc) are far more demanding.

What can you do to make them part of your practice in a way that’s practical for them and you?

As with everything, some days, it’s much easier to be present than others. Many mornings, Rainbow’s so peaceful and quiet on the bed, I do my meditation next to her there before I even brush my teeth.

This morning, I could have easily locked Rainbow out of the room but I wanted to challenge myself to stay focused. (I can almost hear her howl, ‘Mwah hahahaha’ from the other room where she’s been peaceful and still since I finished and put my yoga mat away.)

Children and animals are wonderful at bringing us into the present moment.

This isn’t to say it’s always easy. Just as it’s often easier to be aware of our bodies and what they need when we feel strong, fit and healthy, it’s when we’re in pain that the biggest benefits of being present and really paying attention to what we need can pay off.

Do you include your children and/or animals in your meditative practices?

When is it easiest?

When is it most challenging?

What helps you most?

Feel free to share below.

love,

Eve

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Are you letting strangers tell you you *should* be feeling blue?

 BlueMonday
Apparently, Monday’s ‘blue Monday’. Maybe, if you’re already feeling blue, knowing you’re not alone helps? Perhaps you’re bewildered as you’re having a brilliant 2017?
Today, Monday and everyday, let yourself feel however you actually feel. Amazing or really low, it’ll pass.
If you’re feeling a bit fragile, be extra kind to yourself. This means different things for all of us – ask yourself what might help you most right now.
If you want to lift your mood, notice how you want to move. If you enjoy yoga, gentle backbends can help us feel happier. You might want to play with these: Click here for Restorative Fish,  here for Bow and here for Camel.
Ultimately, every day of the year (of your life) you know yourself best. Tune into what you need instead of being swayed by others’ perceptions – especially when they’re worse than how you might actually be feeling.
Do you buy into Blue Monday?
When do you notice low mood?
What helps YOU?
How might you do more of those things?
Feel free to post below.
love,
Eve
(PS – I’ve tried editing this several times but can’t correct the formatting)
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My work/life balance tips in for Huffington Post (published 5/9/16)

HuffPoWorkLifeBalance5916

Thanks Mary Common for including some of my work/balance tips in this piece and Veronica Amarelle for letting me know it’s out.

You can read the whole piece here.

How do you keep a good enough* work/life balance?

What signs let you know you need to prioritise one or the other for a while?

Feel free to share in the comments below.

love,

Eve

*perfection can feel like pressure as well as being impossible

 

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Bringing holiday highlights home

sea

Back from my first ‘proper’ holiday in years. Nine sea swims in eight days.

Glorious Greece.

And I’m happy to be home (as is Rainbow MagnifiCat, who had her own holiday staying with a loved one).

While walking into the sea each time barely pausing (as it wasn’t the Essex sunshine coast temperature I’ve become used to) was amazing, I know I’ll still love my more local swims.

The water being warm enough to swim properly (parallel to shore as don’t want to risk drowning) for an hour in the sea instead of my usual mixing things up with pool swims was something I don’t think I’ve experienced before.

Although in Kenya, the sea was so warm, was swimming at 6.30am each day but also pool swam. And my Goan sea swims, each time I’ve been, have been more being battered by the sea as very choppy each time I’ve been. Gorgeous sea but not swims as such.

Yes, I’m addicted to the sea. We did lots of other lovely things (and I got looooooaaaads done on my book draft in a really relaxed way) but it’s the sea swims I’ll be thinking of most.

I’ve also been inspired to start making fruit salads after the gorgeous Seagulls restaurant served such delicious ones.

Pausing in the supermarket to pick up fruits I’ve never glanced at before (and dividing it all into freezable portions so it stays a treat instead of feeling like pressure) was another way of bringing some holiday benefits home.

The abundance of the sea and of having access to fresh, good food and time to connect face to face and (although I found such sporadic wifi access not very relaxing) time to disconnect…

Am sure I’ll think of other things that became routine last week and which can be built into my daily life.

When you think of your own favourite (recent, long ago, imaginary) holidays, which elements have you integrated into your life at home?

What else might you try?

Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve

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Standing Forward Fold

standingforwardfold

This is one of my favourites but we’re all built differently. If you don’t find it relaxing (even as you feel a pretty intense stretch), be extra kind to yourself easing into it gently.

With the feet hip distance apart and facing forward, raise your arms over head, hinge at the hips and allow yourself to gently fold forwards to whatever degree feels good. Ensure you have at least a microbend in your knees and if it feels better to bend them more, honour that.

Whether your hands end up under your feet, on the floor, around your ankles, on your shins or higher up, trust that you’re getting the right stretch for your body in this moment.

Notice your breath and aim for 5 complete breaths (or even 3+ minutes for Relaxation Response benefits if this is comfortable enough). To come up, bend the knees a little more and roll up slowly and gently. Pausing in Chair can on the way up can help you avoid any lightheadedness.

What’s your favourite version of Forward Fold?

Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve

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IF YOU’RE NEW TO YOGA AND DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THESE POSES, GO TO A YOGA THERAPIST OR INSTRUCTOR. IF YOU’RE NEW TO EXERCISE, CONSULT YOUR GP BEFOREHAND. ALWAYS HONOUR YOUR BODY’S OWN WISDOM

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Child pose benefits

Child

I once had a yoga student say, ‘Oh! I used to sleep like this when I was a kid!’ but for most of us, Child pose, while relaxing, is not the kind of pose we’d find ourselves in without being guided into it.

Still, relaxation is incredibly important and Child’s benefits go beyond offering a pose for students to relax into any time they want to break from what the class is doing.

Child is said to be especially good when menstruating. Mukunda Stiles, in Structural Yoga Therapy writes that it can help eliminate extra fluid and energy.

Apart from stress relief, benefits include stretching the spine, hips, thighs and ankles.

It should be avoided if you are pregnant, have diarrhoea or if a knee injury makes it uncomfortable.

Child can also encourage self-care. Even with a yoga instructor telling you to feel free to relax into Child anytime you choose, you’re still likely to pause as you watch what everyone else is doing.

Yet learning to choose what’s right for you in any given moment is liberating and empowering.

Notice the variations. Sometimes, the outstretched arms (pictured above) are what you feel like. Other times, you may want to rest with the hands as a pillow for your forehead (see below) or even wrapped around your torso, first resting on one temple and then gently turning so both sides of the neck feel balanced.

Child

If you want to play with Child pose, while it’s traditionally taught with the knees together, many adults simply aren’t shaped that way. So you may want to kneel with your knees wide apart and big toes together. This will allow you to relax more deeply into Child than attempting to keep the buttocks on the heels as your forehead reaches for the mat (of course, if your body does work that way and you find it relaxing, go for it!).

You can also use Child pose to consciously release any headaches and heart aches into the earth, knowing it can all be recycled for the benefit of the planet.

What’s your favourite Child pose variation?

What are your other favourite relaxing asanas?

Any top tips for Child you feel like sharing? Feel free to use the comments section.

love,

Eve

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IF YOU’RE NEW TO YOGA AND DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THESE POSES, GO TO A YOGA THERAPIST OR INSTRUCTOR. IF YOU’RE NEW TO EXERCISE, CONSULT YOUR GP BEFOREHAND. ALWAYS HONOUR YOUR BODY’S OWN WISDOM

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The benefits of Bow pose

Bow

A lot of people dislike Bow but I’ve always loved it. Great for using up stress hormones, it’s also grounding and tones the back, buttocks and legs.

While uplifting and energising when in Bow, it helps us build greater autonomic control in the longer term (controlling our breath in such poses means that, with practice, we become better at handling bigger physical and emotional stresses without the old impact).

Bow is also helpful for hormone imbalances so can ease symptoms associated with menopause, menstruation and post natal depression. Like all backbends, Bow can also help us lift our mood.

To enter Bow, start by lying on your belly. Bend your knees, keeping them in line with the hips and shoulders and take both hands to both ankles. If you’re unable to reach on both sides, do Half Bow (first stretching one side then the other) rather than being off balance.

Grounding the pelvis, rock back with both hands and hold the outer feet or ankles. Keep drawing the shoulders away from the ears and lengthen the neck. Push the feet into the hands for more lift.

Notice the breath and aim for as much control as possible, breathing into the lower lungs and aiming for that longer exhalation.

If it feels OK for your neck, look forwards or up.

To come out of Bow, gently release the ankles or feet and come back onto the belly, resting face down for a few complete breaths to allow the system to come back down again. Lifting and lowing the system with rest poses after dynamic ones helps us retrain the autonomic nervous system.

What do you think of Bow pose?

What are your favourite mood boosting poses?

Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve

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IF YOU’RE NEW TO YOGA AND DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THESE POSES, GO TO A YOGA THERAPIST OR INSTRUCTOR. IF YOU’RE NEW TO EXERCISE, CONSULT YOUR GP BEFOREHAND. ALWAYS HONOUR YOUR BODY’S OWN WISDOM.

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Lion pose benefits – roar it out

Lion

I love Lion pose. Even when I practice it at home alone, it makes me beam with embarrassment imagining what on earth it looks like. The friend who took these pics kept a straight face for most of the poses but when it came to Lion just said, ‘Good grief.’

I’ve taught it to students who’ve been happy to roar out their stresses when I’ve taught outdoor (summer) classes by the River Brain and at gyms where everyone’s refused to give it a go (as well as other gyms where most people have been happy to roar away). At a rehab centre, even the glass doors didn’t put my lovely students off.

I’m never sure how new students will react to Lion but I continue encouraging them to roar (even if they don’t do it in class, learning it might encourage them to play with it at home).

Benefits include boosting circulation in the tongue and throat and exercising and strengthening the face and throat muscles. The longer exhalation helps calm the nervous system and I teach it by encouraging students and clients to ponder current stresses – anything they’d like to just roar away – before moving into Lion.

I think even this act of honouring whatever is stressing us out in any given moment helps release some of the energy around it. There have been times where I’ve been on hold for 20+ minutes and doing a quick partial Lion roar makes me laugh at myself enough to feel much better equipped to handle the robots until I get to eventually talk to a human and sort whatever issue had me calling. You can hear me talking about Lion pose on BBC Essex here.

If this introduction around how embarrassing some people find it and how silly it can look hasn’t put you off (embarrassment is the only contraindication), you might want to play with it now:

  • As you rest in Child or similar, think of up to six stresses you’d rather not have in your life right now
  • Come into a low kneeling position, placing the hands on your knees (if this doesn’t work for you, sit in any comfortable position)
  • Widen your eyes, rolling them up as you ROAR, stretching your tongue out (making a forced ‘Ahhhh’ sound – actually sounds more like I imagine a snake would sound than a lion), folding forwards and then coming back up to the original position
  • Repeat a couple of times, each time, roaring away a different stress
  • Repeat another three times or move into Crazy Lion (a pose my friend refused to photograph) and as you fold forward, move your head and neck and torso in all sorts of directions as you let yourself go
  • When you complete your six rounds, come back to your kneeling (or other starting) position and notice how you feel.

It’s entirely possible that the beaming faces I often see as we complete Lion in classes are at least partially down to relief at having done it but it’s great fun so do feel free to play with it, if you want to.

What do you think of Lion pose?

What (potentially embarrassing) tools help you de-stress and let out some of the day’s frustrations?

Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve

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IF YOU’RE NEW TO YOGA AND DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THESE POSES, GO TO A YOGA THERAPIST OR INSTRUCTOR. IF YOU’RE NEW TO EXERCISE, CONSULT YOUR GP BEFOREHAND. ALWAYS HONOUR YOUR BODY’S OWN WISDOM

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Downward Dog yoga benefits

DownwardDog

 

Downward Dog (sometimes Downward Facing Dog or simply Down Dog – which I especially like as it makes me imagine puppies) is a popular pose which brings mixed reactions.

You can start by being in what’s sometimes called Table Top position (the neutral spine part of Cat / Cow), having your knees in line with your hips and hands below the shoulders or maybe slightly in front if this is more comfortable.

Aim to have your index finger pointing forward and curl the toes under before lifting the knees and drawing your heels towards the mat. If there’s a big gap (all our bodies are different), you might want to have a folded blanket under your heels to offer you that extra sense of grounding and support. Look back towards your knees and aim (I know this sounds odd in an inversion) to drop (so actually, they’re going up a little) your shoulder blades.

Aim to take 3-5 full breaths here, noticing what’s happening. Are you able to have that longer exhalation here (creating additional calming for the ANS)? Are you able to breathe deeply and fully?

To come out of Downward Dog, you might walk your feet towards your hands and roll on up or bend the knees and come back into Child pose.

Being able to breathe fully in Downward Dog (not when you’re starting out, perhaps as exertion has an impact on our ability to breathe deeply, too) benefits the vagus nerve (that long ‘wandering’ cranial nerve that’s responsible for sending 80% of signals from body to brain enabling us to change the way we feel by breathing and moving differently). Naturally, this helps balance the autonomic nervous systems (ANS).

Our immune systems benefit from the toxin flushing Downward Dog allows. It also stretches the sciatic nerve so can bring relief over the long term but avoid Downward Dog in the midst of a flare up – your body’s wisdom is always greater than anyone else’s words. Pay attention to what feels friendly in any given moment. Like all asanas, something that feels delightful one day can be very challenging the next or even later in the day (or visa versa).

Yoga is a way in which we can better get to know our bodies and their signals to us.

While Downward Dog is a resting pose during dynamic flows, you may find Child more restful. Personally, I love the stretch but if an old shoulder injury is flaring up, I do less or avoid.

How do you feel about Downward Dog?

What are your favourite stretches?

Feel free to comment below.

love,

Eve

IF YOU’RE NEW TO YOGA AND DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THESE POSES, GO TO A YOGA THERAPIST OR INSTRUCTOR. IF YOU’RE NEW TO EXERCISE, CONSULT YOUR GP BEFOREHAND. ALWAYS HONOUR YOUR BODY’S OWN WISDOM

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Dragon tails, superheroes and somatic presence

AmyCuddybook

I had a lovely day at the fantabulous Clare Myatt’s somatic presence workshop. My highlights included:

  • learning additional ways to ground and centre (eyes open made it a radical change to my existing tools)
  • new ways to tune into the body’s wisdom when making decisions and
  • a resilience building exercise which sounds too bizarre to write about but which was incredibly valuable both personally and professionally.

Bonus – really lovely group of people to spend the day with.

Find out more about Clare’s work here.

Then, I came home to Amy ‘Power Pose’ Cuddy’s fab new book, Presence. I’d learned about her research during my yoga therapy training. Since then, I’ve taught it to countless clients, students and workshop attendees.

In a nutshell, Cuddy’s research was around whether humans taking up more space might impact our confidence as primates of higher social standing exemplified these power poses (think men on the Tube).

Her research makes it fun, around expansive superhero (or yoga poses like Warrior II) poses. I’ve heard of people doing this by their cars before presentations but you don’t have to as the effects last for hours, increasing testosterone and reducing cortisol after holding them for just 2+ minutes.

Not only did they feel less stressed and more confident, but they were seen as more competent by strangers.

You can see the famous Ted Talk here.

What I hadn’t known was that the Harvard professor’s interest in presence started when she felt like an imposter in her own body after a car crash left her with a traumatic brain injury.

It’s a gorgeous book which, like Clare’s workshops, I’d recommend not just for coach-therapists and yoga therapists but for everyone.

What helps you feel more embodied (at ease in your own skin, content, powerful, safe, relaxed, open and so on)?

Feel free to share below.

love,

Eve x

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