September self care
September is a time of new beginnings and change as we move into autumn. Already with the harvest full moon and the sad passing of our beloved queen emotions are likely running high. With a cost of living crisis constantly looming you may be feeling the stress of financial pressure also. This month we will look at yoga as a form of self care to help manage this turbulent time.
What is self-care?
Self-care is taking care of ourselves in positive ways that improve our health, enhance our well-being, and improve our ability to cope with life’s challenges. Self-care is any type of physical, mental, or spiritual activity you do for yourself that can help you feel better, healthier, and have more energy. Self-care is an integral part of living a healthy and balanced life. It is a vital component of wellness, to keep us in balance and allow us to be our best selves. In the age that we are living in everything is fast paced and caring for ourselves is an essential component to prevent emotional exhaustion, burnout, and apathy.
What is yoga for self-care?
Self-care is arguably the most important aspect of your health and well-being, but making time for yourself can be difficult, especially since, for some it can feel selfish and indulgent to do things that make you feel good. Yoga is an amazing self care tool as it can improve and promote compassion, kindness, and love to give ourselves permission to take care of our own needs, this in turn enables us to go about our daily lives and care for others to the best of our ability. The saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup” comes to mind.
There are several ways that yoga can enhance your mental, physical, spiritual, and social wellbeing. With regular practice, the holistic and balanced approach of yoga not just improves our physical wellness but also strengthens our emotional resilience so that we can easily deal with difficult circumstances to prevent stress and burnout. This month in class I will be including the following practices to help you develop your own self care routines at home.
We start class by settling the body into a comfortable position, becoming aware of the breath and the senses. Taking some time to feel into how we are on that particular day, as of course this will change each time you come to your mat. We take time to recognise how we are in different aspects of the body, physical, energetic and mental/emotional. At the moment I am using the image of a snow globe, when you come into class you may have had a very busy stressful morning or week leading up to entering the door for your yoga class, so if that is the case you can visualise your snow globe as being shaken quite vigorously, all those little flakes whirling around but as you come into stillness and settle the body those flakes can also start to settle, helping you to feel a little more grounded and able to connect with what is going on in that exact moment.
This is the term used for the breathing techniques we use in yoga, there are many ways in which the breath can be adapted to facilitate a desired outcome, for example to calm the nervous system, to feel a sense of balance, to cool or heat the body or to energise.
Prana is not actually the breath itself but the life force energy within the body, Ayama means expansion. So by using the breath as a tool we can expand the pranic energy, how amazing is that!? There are of course physical and mental benefits too.
In September we are going back to basics, simply learning or re-learning how to breathe with our diaphragms. As babies we instinctively breathe deeply and freely within the body, you will also notice this in your pets if you watch their abdomens when they are relaxed. As adults we take on the stresses and strains of modern life and the breath becomes shallow, if we don’t pay it any attention it becomes habitual and this can put the body in a continuous low state of stress. By breathing more deeply we can reverse that fight or flight stress response and move into a state of rest and digest.
By simply breathing diaphragmatically this can have such a profound effect. Releasing muscular tensions, improving stability of the core muscles, aiding digestion, increases lung efficiency, lowering heart rate and in turn blood pressure and really just letting our brains know that we are not in danger, we are safe and don’t need to be in a state of high alert or stress.
There are many approaches to yoga asana (the postures) my classes are mainly influenced by Hatha and restorative yoga, meaning that although we do sometimes move with the breath it is not a demanding physical or aerobic exercise as some vinyasa styles of yoga can be. During class we limber the body and prepare muscle groups specifically for any poses incorporated into the lesson plan.
Asana might include sitting, standing, lying and kneeling. We move the spine in all directions, flexing forwards, extending backwards, moving laterally from side to side and rotating the spine. All of these movements can be adapted to suit individuals. The beauty of yoga is that it is not one size fits all, you can find ways to make each posture work for you by using props or modifying the postures to take into account any vulnerable areas you might have. I offer chair based classes for people with less mobility where there is no requirement to come down to the floor or more importantly be able to get back up safely.
As a modern society reliant on technology, we seem to be spending more and more time sitting or hunched over devices. Yoga’s focus on mobility and flexibility can contribute to better alignment by releasing muscles that are often tight and improving mobility of the spine for better posture.
Regular practice of asana can build muscular strength, improve cardiovascular function, muscle tone, bone density, flexibility, balance, strength, co ordination, posture, and endurance. All of this leads to improved quality of sleep, reduced risk of injury, and increased energy levels. Feeling physically strong can inspire you and allow you to feel as if you can accomplish anything.
Massage is not a traditional aspect of yoga but for me it is an important part of a self care routine. In some asana practice you do receive the added benefits of massage for example in apasana with the knees hugged in towards the chest and rocking gently from side to side is a wonderful release for the back and hips. If the forehead comes to the floor in balasana (child’s pose) having a gentle rock from side to side stimulating the 3rd eye chakra can be a wonderful re balancing and grounding practice.
In September I will be including some simple self massage techniques that you can use at home to give yourself a little nurturing.
My classes always end by coming back into stillness. The body benefits from the movements in class but the mind benefits from the stillness and introspection. When you’re constantly busy, your mind is running non-stop and easily becomes clouded. Thoughts are always buzzing through your mind about things you need to do, people you need to see, places you need to go, etc. etc. etc. Meditation provides the opportunity to free your mind of all the chaos and as mentioned above become more present with what is going on right now. Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance that can benefit both your emotional well-being and your overall health.
Practicing self-care doesn’t have to mean sitting alone in silence. Your well-being depends on deep connections and healthy relationships with others. Regularly attending a yoga class is an easy way to put time and energy into building new and maintaining established relationships with like minded people.
If you would like to discuss a more tailored self care practice I do offer 1-1 private sessions where we can work on a yoga practice to suit your lifestyle and needs.