Unpack Some Self Care
Originally this piece was part of a larger post dealing with my dog being attacked by another dog, but I decided to split out the techniques into their own post, separate from the story. Yoga helped me through that terrible day, read about how, here. When I got home, I got on the mat and unpacked some simple, very gentle restorative techniques, which I now share with you.
An essential technique in my classes. This stretch works the kidney meridian, associated with fear. It also works the kidney organs and, importantly, switches off the adrenal glands. Working the length of the legs and focusing energy into the pelvis, helps to drain the energy out of the upper body (where tension tends to get tied up when we are under stress). Deliberate relaxation of upper body and shoulders whilst tucking chin in helps with moving into parasympathetic nervous system. Pressing into the Kidney 1 point on the foot helps with stress and fear. This is not an easy or comfortable technique, to be honest, but it is very effective and the level of mindfulness required was very useful at the time to tune my mind out of the day and into my practice.
Twists are great to calm the body. We know that when we are stressed we have a knot in our guts. Ironically, wringing out those organs can help untie that knot. It lets everything settle. Squeezing into an area pushes out the old blood, fluids and toxins and this is replaced by the fresh. Again, this seated twist involves a bit of full body concentration to get right: inhale and pull up through the spine, exhale turn the belly button around, deliberately relax your shoulders until the shoulder blades slide down your back, relax your buttocks and thighs but keep both sit bones on the floor.
Dynamic Child’s Pose
Still using full body engagement – engagement in seeking relaxation! – by moving on the breath. Starting in tabletop and moving through cat/cow, I began a pendulum with my torso forward and backward on the breath to open and close myself to the world and to the breath more fully. Long fluid breaths. Long fluid movements. Mind in the belly. Finally, I was gliding from child’s pose up to almost a face-up dog.
When I was ready, I paused back on my heels. Child’s Pose can be practiced many ways. This time I brought my arms back alongside my body, backs of the hands to the floor. Forehead on the floor, shoulder blades stretched across the back as gravity draws heavy upon them. (My shoulders were shocked and sore from the beating I had delivered with my umbrella – filled with fight and flight hormones – to try and save my dog). Breathing into my belly, I noticed the gentle massage of the breath while cocooned by my body. I was ready for stillness now.
Forward bend on a chair
After a time, I settled into this kindest of forward bends. Still stretching the back body, but gravity does the work. The chin tucked in for the parasympathetic system and the head supported. Still safe but more open than in child’s pose.
Legs up “wall” on a chair
Even kinder than legs up wall, is legs up wall on a chair. This is the last of my restorative sequence. Legs above the hips, everything is easy. A gentle inversion, the weight of the femur rests into the hip joint. The body is supported by the floor. No effort is needed. Close the eyes. Just breathe.
Even if you are well practiced in self led meditation, sometimes I just let myself be taken on a journey. I don’t need to make choices. I just need to listen. I just need to breathe. I just need gentle kindness.