Following on from Amy‘s first blog about stress and change, and how it can affect our physical, mental and emotional health, Amy has put together some breath work and yoga poses that could be used to create healthy stress response patterns.
All we need is us, in comfortable clothes and a calming place to sit and practice. We can use a yoga mat, sheepskin, blanket, rug, or meditation cushion.
I invite you to come seated in a comfortable position, legs crossed with a tall, straight spine. Become conscious of your breath, allowing yourself to inhale and exhale slowly and deeply at least three times (more is always welcomed and encouraged if needed). A wonderful calming breath we can first practice is Left Nostril Breathing.
Left Nostril Breath
Rest the left hand in Gyan Mudra on the knee (thumb touching forefinger, other fingers out straight). Block the right nostril with the thumb of the right hand with the other fingers pointing straight up. Begin long and deep powerful breaths in and out of the left nostril.
I then invite you to warm up the body gently with some neck rolls, shoulder rolls, and spinal flex for 1-3 minutes each. Keep eyes closed.
Allow your head to fall toward your chest and slowly move it around in a full circle to the right for as long as feels comfortable. Then, switch directions and roll head to the left.
Inhale your shoulders up to your ears and roll them back behind you down your spine on the exhale. Switch directions, inhaling your shoulders up behind you and exhaling them forward.
Holding onto your shins, isolate and inhale the spine and heart forward, exhale and curl spine back. Keep the head level and arms fairly straight and relaxed.
As we move into the next set of exercises, please consider holding them for 1-3 minutes with eyes closed, going deep within.
Raise your arms into a 60 degree angle. Curl fingers on the pads of the palms, thumbs out straight and pointed in at each other. Keep eyes closed and focused above the head. Begin Breath of Fire*, rapidly inhaling and exhaling the diaphragm. To end, raise hands over head, touch the thumbs together, inhale and hold the breath. Exhale. Inhale and exhale two more times.
*Breath of Fire – This breath is rapid, rhythmic, and continuous with 2-3 breaths per second (it’s fast!). Inhale and exhale through the naval, equally. As you inhale your belly expands like a hot air balloon, and as you exhale it contracts towards your spine. If you are a beginner, go slow and practice 30 seconds to start. If you are pregnant, or on your moon cycle, practice long deep breathing.
Begin in a table top position with palms flat on the earth directly beneath your shoulders, fingers facing forward with weight evenly distributed, knees on the earth directly beneath your hips. Head is in a neutral position with the spine, softening your gaze downward. Inhale as you melt your heart and belly down towards the earth and head up to the sky in an arch like position. Exhale and pull your belly to your spine as it curls up towards the sky and your head falls toward the floor. Repeat and keep going.
Tuck your toes under your feet, press your palms flat onto the earth as you inhale your hips up, extending your tailbone toward the sky so your body is positioned in an inverted v-shape. Push your heels down towards the earth (they do not have to touch). Feet are hip width apart. Create a straight line between the wrists and the hips, and the hips to the heels. Roll the armpits towards each other. Arms and legs straight (legs can be slightly bent if needed). Allow your head to drop, pull your chin in so your gaze is towards your naval. Breath normally.
Standing Forward Bend
Slowly inhale as you walk your hands towards your feet, bringing your feet flat on the earth. Release the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Cross your forearms or allow your arms to hang long. Shake your head left to right, back and forth. Inhaling and exhaling. When you’re ready, inhale as you slowly rise up to a standing position, one vertebrae at a time, your head the last to rise.
Plant your feet firmly on the earth hip distance apart, knees bent slightly. Pull your stomach toward your back. Extend your arms down by your side, open your palms.
Sit on your heels. Bend forward placing your head to the earth and extending your arms forward in front of you. Allow space between your knees and the toes touch. If possible, allow the buttocks to touch your heels.
Sit on your heels. Bend forward placing your head to the earth. Extend the arms back along the sides of your body, on the ground.
Legs Up The Wall
Begin in a seated position with hips and shoulders against a wall. Lower the torso down to the earth as you lift your legs up the wall. Wiggle closer or farther away from the wall depending on your comfort level. Option to include a block or blanket under the lower spine / hips, or head, to release any discomfort.
Lay on your back. Hug your knees into your chest, nose between the knees. Roll back and forth on the spine, breathing normally.
Come laying down flat on your back. Arms extended by your side, palms up and open. Option to bring left hand to heart and right hand to naval. Deeply relax.
Amy Shea is a Kundalini yoga student, teacher, meditative healer, and transition coach. She also offers strategic talent guidance to nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies with a focus on social good. Amy lives in the Ojai valley where she finds joy in spending her days sharing yoga, hiking the local trails, and cooking up healing, comfort foods.
She has been practicing various types of yoga for years, discovered Kundalini in 2007, and began teaching in 2008. She teaches Kundalini, Prenatal (The Khalsa Way), Mommy & Me, and is also certified in Light Leaders and Y.O.G.A. for Youth.
Amy brings her love and wisdom of teaching and coaching to offer heart-opening and peaceful experiences that will help connect and heal the body, mind, and soul and allow you to discover your authentic self. She guides students along the journey into self-discovery, the open and loving heart, and the connection to humanity. She brings a calm and nurturing manner to her classes and offers a space for all to feel safe and have fun. Known for her peaceful and heart-opening approach, she has shared Kundalini Yoga with the masses as a frequent contributor to wellness brands.
Amy has a deep respect for the beauty of pregnancy and childbirth and is devoted to sharing the gifts of The Khalsa Way to support mothers-to-be on their journey to motherhood. Also, she believes yoga and meditation are extremely beneficial in the development of children’s education, physical fitness, and social awareness. In years past, Amy and a team lead an annual event, One World Peace Day, full of yoga, mediation, dancing and activities to help teens explore their individuality, understand their own power, voice, and influence on one another and the world.