Thursday, 17 December 2015

Don't let pre-Christmas madness stress you - get grounded!!

At this time of year our heads are buzzing with so much to do - present buying and wrapping, cards to write, menus to plan, parties.  All this energy in our heads can unbalance us and make us stressed. In this late autumn/early winter period vata is the dominant dosha which can add to our anxiety. 

A grounding yoga practice in which we bring our energy down into our bodies and re-connect with the earth will help so do try and make time for your asanas and meditation. A grounding practice is one that focuses on the root chakra, our centre for stability. Try the sequence below to help you cope with pre-Christmas stress. You will need two blocks and maybe a cushion.

Start in Easy Pose - sit in a cross-legged position on a block or cushion if your knees are higher than your hips. Ground down through your sit bones as you lengthen up through your spine.  Place the palms of your hands down  on your thighs, first finger and thumb joined in a grounding mudra. Gently close your eyes and bring yourself into the present moment, releasing any concerns, any to-do lists.  Spend a few minutes just watching your breath before gently opening your eyes.  Bring your hands to your heart and set an intention to let go of stress so that you might enjoy this pre-Christmas period.

Cat/Cow - come onto all 4s, hands under shoulders, knees under hips.  Inhale lift your head and chest, tilt your tail bone to the ceiling.  Breathe out, tuck your chin, arch your back and tilt your tail bone under.  Continue working with your breath for several movements.

Swan - come towards the back of your mat, big toes touching, knees wide,  Walk your hands forward, bringing your forehead to the mat or a block or a cushion.

Downward Facing Dog- from Swan breathe in, come back to all fours and tuck your toes. Breathe out and lift your hips.  If your hamstrings are tight alternately bend your knees ('walk the dog').   

Intense Side Stretch/Warrior 1/Warrior 2 Sequence - from Downward Facing Dog breathe in, step your right foot forward into a lunge, breathe out drop your back heel, turning your back toes out. Take your hands to your blocks. Breathe in, and as you breathe out press into straight legs (microbend your front knee if you need to). Release the crown of your head down (not below the level of your heart if you have heart issues or high blood pressure). Inhale, come up, bending your front knee and taking your arms overhead (Warrior 1). Hold for 5 breaths grounding down through your feet then breathe out, turn your hips to face the long edge of the mat as you open your arms to shoulder height. Look down the fingers of the right hand (Warrior 2). Hold for 5 breaths then breathe out, bring your hands down either side of your right foot, step back to Downward Facing Dog. Rest here for a few breaths then repeat 2nd side.

Wide Leg Forward Bend - from Warrior 2 on the 2nd side, breathe out turn to face forward, bring your hands to your hips, turn your feet to face forward, outside edges parallel to the short edges of the mat. Breathe in, lift your chest, squeeze your elbows back, breathe out come into flat back position, release your fingers to the mat or to a block if the floor needs to be nearer. Stay here if you have high blood pressure or heart issues.  If you are going deeper into the pose, inhale, exhale walk your hands back, release the crown of your head towards the mat.  To come out of the pose inhale, walk your hands forward, return to flat-back position, exhale bring your hands to your hips, inhale come up slowly.

Goddess Squat/Sliding Squat Sequence - remain with your feet wide and turn your toes out to the corners of your mat. Bring your arms into Cactus position, elbows bent and level with your shoulders, palms facing forward. Breathe out and bend both knees, tuck your tail bone under, breathe in reach your arms up, straighten your legs, breathe out return to arms in Cactus, knees bent. Continue working with your breath for several moves. Step your feet together and give your legs a shake before doing the next movement if you wish. Bring your hands to your thighs, exhale lean to the right, inhale centre, exhale lean to the left and continue working with the breath. This variation is better for you if you have knee issues. To go deeper, squat bringing your hands to the mat in front of you, exhale, walk your hands to the right, inhale centre, exhale walk your hands to the left, inhale centre and continue working with the breath. To come out, bring your hands to your hips, breathe in and come up, step your feet together.

Tree Pose - stand with your feet slightly apart. Take your weight into your left leg, spreading your toes.  Imagine roots growing roots into the earth. Peel your right foot away and either cup your left ankle with your right foot, take your right foot to your right shin or reach down and bring your right foot to the inside of your left thigh. Do not place your right foot against your knee joint which would strain it. If you are cupping your left ankle with your right foot try lifing your toes up to test your balance. Bring your hands to your heart or overhead. Breathe out to release. Repeat 2nd side.

Zig Zag twist - sitting on the mat or a block, bend your left leg back and bring your right foot to the inside of your left thigh. Twist to the right bringing your right hand behind your right hip, your left hand by your right thigh. Hold and breath for several breaths. Now on an exhale fold over your right leg, hold for 5 breaths then inhale come up slowly. Repeat 2nd side.

Easy Pose for meditation - sit in a chair with your feet on the floor or on a block. Place your hands on your thighs, index finger and thumb joined, palms down for a grounding mudra. Gently close your eyes. Relax your feet and legs, your hips and lower back. Release any tension in your abdomen, your upper back and your chest. Let your arms and hands feel relaxed. Release any tension in your jaw, soften your face. 

Begin to notice your breath and let each breath in seek out any remaining tension, each breath out carry it away.  

Now sinking below the level of awareness of your breath, imagine growing roots down into the Earth. Down, down to the energy centre of the Earth. Imagine drawing energy up through your roots into your feet. Feel your feet energize. The energy moves into your legs now, then up through your torso. Your arms and hands energize, your mind. Your whole body and mind are energized. 

Slowly start to bring your awareness back into the room, the chair supporting you and into your own physical body.  Take your attention to the tip of your nose and start to breathe more deeply with each inhale. Gently opening your eyes, start to make any movements you need to bring you back to the here and now, maybe a stretch, maybe a shake of your legs. Please make sure you are fully awake before continuing with your day.

Happy Advent 
Janet x

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