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Strategy for Stress

In my last post I suggested that during this busy festive period you might find that taking just ten minutes out for some restorative yoga might help get you through the Christmas season with your sanity intact. But what if you don’t have ten minutes? Just taking a few moments to check in with your breathing, wherever you are (and especially when your children are intent on derailing your plans) is always helpful.

Here’s How

You can do it standing up, sitting in a chair that supports your back, or lying on a bed or yoga mat on the floor. Make yourself as comfortable as you can. If you can, loosen any clothes that restrict your breathing.

If you’re lying down, place your arms a little way from your sides with the palms up. Let your legs be straight, or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.

If you’re sitting, place your arms on the chair arms or on your lap. Sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground, roughly hip-width apart. Alternatively in all these positions you can place your hands on your stomach so you can feel your belly rise and fall with your breathing.

  • Close your eyes and start breathing through your nose.
  • Then, inhale for a count of two. Hold the breath in for a count of one and then exhale gently, counting out for four. Finish by holding the breath out for a count of one before repeating the sequence and breathing in again for a count of two.
  • Keep your breathing even and smooth.
  • If the 2-4 count feels too short try increasing the breath lengths to 4 in and 6 out, or 6 in and 8 out, and so on until you find your comfortable breathing pattern. If longer breaths create any anxiety then rein it in and shorten them again.

The most important thing is that the exhale is longer than the inhale, not the length of the breath. We all breathe, and count, at different rates. When your exhale is longer than your inhale, your breathing stimulates the Vagus nerve which sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and counteract your sympathetic nervous system.

  • You can stimulate the Vagus nerve further by using gentle Ujjayi yogic breathing (to do this, breathe as if you are trying to fog a mirror but breathe in and out through the nose, this creates a slight constriction at the back of your throat making a ‘hhh’ sound).

As briefly touched on in my previous post the sympathetic nervous system commands your fight or flight response. When fired up, your heart rate and breathing speed increase and stress hormones such as cortisol start pumping through your bloodstream, preparing your body to face a threat. Most of us don’t see the Christmas season as a threat, but our bodies haven’t developed that cognitive knowledge yet and any stressful situation provokes that physical response to a greater or lesser extent. I don’t know about you but I certainly find the build-up to Christmas stressful.

The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, controls your rest, relax and digestive response. When the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant your heart rate drops, your blood pressure lowers and your body is put into a state of calm and healing – which is really what we all need during the season of Joy.

And then if you want to resort to gin, that is your prerogative.

Signed by: Monika.

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  1. Catarina on 20 December 2017 at 10:55 am

    Yoga really works wonders when it comes to stress because of the breathing. When I lived and worked in London I sometimes did yoga during my lunch break. One hour of deep breathing made me fit for fight in the afternoon.

    • Monika Maurer on 20 December 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Catarina! Yes, yoga is truly amazing – there are so many different aspects to it; it can be used to energise, strengthen, relax… I hope you manage to keep up with yoga, regardless of where you live?

  2. Doreen Pendgracs on 20 December 2017 at 11:42 pm

    Yes, the build-up to Christmas can indeed be stressful. I actually enjoy going away at Christmas as I’d rather not have to go thru it all. This year I will get away in January and that will help get me thru Christmas. All the best to you for a peaceful and happy 2018.

    • Monika Maurer on 21 December 2017 at 8:24 am

      Such a good idea to get away in January. We so often have commitments or expectations from others that prevent us from celebrating Christmas how we’d really like. If that’s the case then how wonderful to have something to look forward to in the New Year. Good idea! All best wishes to you Doreen – hope you make it through Christmas and enjoy your break in January.

  3. Phoenicia on 21 December 2017 at 8:29 am

    Hi Monika,

    Welcome to the Bloggers forum!

    I find exercise and praying helps me to relax, along with taking a long bath or shower. There is a lot of pressure at this time of year and we can move away from focusing on the true meaning of Christmas.

    I have enjoyed Christmas lunches with colleagues, friends and look forward to spending time with family and resting.

    • Monika Maurer on 21 December 2017 at 8:40 am

      Hi Phoenicia,
      Agreed. Keeping things in perspective is so helpful. Time with friends and family is the most precious thing we have so we need to keep it in mind during the manic build-up to Christmas. All the best for the festive season and for 2018!

  4. Marquita Herald on 21 December 2017 at 9:24 am

    Years ago I practiced yoga on a regular basis, but then I got into hula (lived in Maui) and that took all of my time and attention. Now that I’ve moved to the mainland (which sounds a lot better for my ego than my knees can’t handle hula anymore) I’ve just recently started back into yoga. I’m still pretty stiff, but I’m already seeing small improvements. Great tips … including the gin. 🙂

    • Monika Maurer on 21 December 2017 at 10:39 am

      I’m sorry you had to give up the hula Marquita, that sounds a lot of fun. But the good news is that there is a form of yoga out there for everyone, including those with stiff joints and problematic knees. I practice Scaravelli yoga at the moment which is really gentle, but has worked wonders for my back and shoulders. It’s all down to whatever you can do and doing it regularly to see those improvements continue. As far as the gin goes, my husband makes sloe gin every year, which is delicious with lemon tonic – a combination I highly recommend if you can get either of those over in the States!

  5. William Rusho on 22 December 2017 at 5:24 pm

    I found no matter what you do, and when. It is the quietness of your soul that makes it worth living.
    I always find time, to meditate, or just to stop the outside world from crashing into my mind. I guess it was the days from the military, when you work explosives, you have to remain calm, even when it is crazy around you.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Monika Maurer on 23 December 2017 at 9:34 am

      Hi William. Thank you for your comment. I never thought of military personnel in this way but I guess you need to employ incredible reserves of focus for a job like that. I am still working on it! Best wishes for Christmas.

  6. Jeannette Paladino on 23 December 2017 at 4:18 am

    Monika — I took yoga years ago, but haven’t practiced it lately. I like the short exercise to ease the stress of Christmas. Thanks for sharing.

    • Monika Maurer on 23 December 2017 at 9:33 am

      Hi Jeanette, Thank you. I hope it is useful at all times of stress, not just Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful festive season.

  7. Jamie Jordon on 7 January 2018 at 5:12 am

    Restorative yoga is really impotent part of our life that good for our health and mind. But there is problem yoga style. I am really enjoying and learn many think about yoga. Your suggestion is really impotent for any one. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • Monika Maurer on 7 January 2018 at 4:56 pm

      Thanks Jamie. I’m glad you enjoyed my post and thanks for commenting. I hope you keep enjoying your restorative yoga and exploring different aspects of yoga practice.

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