by Bess Shipside
What interesting times we live in. For many people life as they know it has been turned upside down and uh, …outside in. No matter what your experience is of the current situation unfolding, most likely in someway it’s quite different now to how it was a few short weeks and months ago.
Let us be clear – there is a huge variation in the intensity of pressure, environments and responsibility felt buy each one of us but one thing that is vitally important to all in this climate is to look after your health- body, mind and soul.
In this full spectrum lockdown landscape- some of us are suddenly time rich yet pennies poor and others have both a family full house and with work commitments to maintain, often in a shared living space. Compassionately negotiating the physical, psychological and emotional impact of this pandemic is a necessari if we are to keep strong and steady for self and others, near or far. And offering yourself a snippet of time to reconnect and reset is essential.
Luckily the ancient and organic science of yoga offers us many ways to restore our vitality and bring some balance between our heart and head. Even 10 minutes in a day dedicated to feeling into you, can make a difference to how the rest of your time flows, how we act and respond and importantly, how we navigate strong emotions such as anxiety, fear or grief.
I would like to offer you some manageable ‘micro practices’ that you could slide in to the day-to-day routine or lack of. These are suitable for anyone, new or experienced in yoga, who feels like they could do with a bit of self-service and are especially useful those who are caring for others- you must take time to refill your cup! Remember that the only real certainty in life is change, and therefore, it’s not always so much what you did or didn’t do that matters ( ..do stay at home!) , but how you move within and integrate these life long transitions that can make a huge difference to how supported and safe you feel in any given moment.
Open and Close the day with a balanced Mind and Heart- a 5-minute bed based meditation.
Sit up in bed and let a few deep slow breaths roll through you. Feel the texture of your breath moving in and drifting out. Let this be an anchor to help keep you awake and present to what is happening inside you for the duration of this little mediation.
As you begin to feel more receptive, tuned into that vitalising yet grounding movement of the breath- gently lift your hands and bring one to gently rest over the middle of the chest, and take the two first fingers (peace fingers) of the other hand and bring them together to rest on the space between the eyebrows, letting them land lightly.
For a few moments feel both the presence of palm and fingers to heart and head. Give space in this balancing body mudra to feel with your whole being, what is stirring in the depths of the head and the heart. You might perceive that one of the two, is stronger or more prominent than the other in this moment- acknowledge the power and sensitivity of both.
Is the mind, what is happening in the brain more active or is heart the more leading force? Take your time to feel where more energy is gathering, with open non-judgmental awareness to any feelings that stir.
When you have some clarity on whether it is the head, (the intellect) or heart, (the intelligence), that is dominating, relax your hands onto your knees. Allow your breath to gently but purposefully coax or encourage balance between these two centers. So you might be guiding a flow of compassionate energy from the heart towards the head or from head to heart.
When you feel that the balance is more even, allow the hands to reconnect as before. Feel the breath continue to travel between heart and head and listen inside to receive any natural wisdom and guidance from your essence as to what may or may not be possible today. Stay open to what the world has in store for you, and as each breath grows and recedes fill yourself with the space and strength, anchored in both your head and your heart, that will support and see you through the unfolding of this unique day.
When you organically feel it, bring your hands together at your heart and seal your mediation in gratitude by saying out loud any words that resonate as truth for you.
The practice of namaskar, known commonly to most as sun salutations is a beautiful movement practice to enjoy if you only have 5 minutes and a little bit of room to move in.
Namaskar is a repetitive and rhythmic series of postures supported by the breath.
These movements promote good cardiovascular health, sacred strength, improve circulation and allow the mind to rest, as they are also a moving mediation.
In the morning you could do 1-6 rounds of Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) to honor the life giving energy of the rising sun which sustains life and brings us to activity, while in the evening Chandra namaskar (moon salutations) done slowly for restoration of energy is a beautiful way to ease out any aches and imbalances from the day.
Conscious Tea break
The process of making tea can be very relaxing, and certainly the feeling of a warm cup in the palms very soothing indeed. Taking a moment to make something we do everyday mindful is a great way to find some much needed space.
Try not to fill this space with the usual organisational thoughts or phone scroll, but instead see if you can be softly observant to the whole tea making and drinking process.
Things to notice: the smell of your tea bag or tea leaves, the way the water bubbles, boils and steam swirls from the kettle, colour merge and stain as you pour water into your cup, the sound of the teaspoon within the cup, the warmth of the mug in your palms- sit with this for a while and let the tea steam your face and of course savour those first sweet sips!
Its tough having to spend time indoors while the ground warms and the skies brighten- but one way to stay connected to the healing power of mother earth and to cultivate patience (!), is to grow something from seed.
The sowing of seeds connects to the yogic practice of sankalpa- literally sowing seeds of intention into the ground of our being to nurture through our conscious living. I have been using old egg boxes as tiny plant pots to start off veggie seedlings and next to a window they soon start to push through and sprout up. If you can get hold of salad seeds such as rocket or nasturtium which are also very inexpensive, you will find they need just a little bit of love and water to get growing and in time you will be rewarded with your own edible nutritious leaves! It is so beautiful and satisfying to watch the transformation from first seed, shoots to plant- nature really does enrich the soil of the soul!
Psychic Nadi Shodhana
Nadi Shodhana is the name of one of the most important and foundational yogic breathing exercises- also known as alternate nostril breathing. If you come to my classes at the Well Garden we probably have practiced this together!
This is a balancing or calming pranayama, which means it soothes and induces a calm and steady state. Nadi means flow or passage and Shuddi means purification.
In this psychic ‘hands free’ version, which is more suitable for now- we visualise the breath moving up through the right nostril on the inhale and out through the left nostril on the exhale, then focus on the inhale through the left nostril and feel it flow out through the right.
The breath sort of ‘flosses’ through the nose helping to balance the right and left energy channels of the body, hemispheres of the brain and parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. This is one of my favourite practices to help drop tension and reset.
I hope these micro practice suggestions are helpful to you and help you stay steady in your sadhana and connected to spirit when times feel tough. Little and often is the way to go, and this is householder yoga for everyday life, especially if you there is no time for an online yoga class! Remember its not so much what you do but how you do what you can.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu- May all beings have the realisation of freedom and happiness