I know that we are all deeply impacted by the events of the past week. It can be overwhelming to absorb so much news, and it can be hard to know what to do. We often respond with a range of reactive and protective measures - we obsess, despair, rage, numb out. We do whatever we can to mediate the discomfort, and can abandon ourselves in the process.
There are practices we can turn to when the news is overwhelming. Mindfulness exercises like yoga can help you return to your body, and steady your mind. This won’t make anything go away, nor will it necessarily make anything better, but it will increase your ability to be helpful to yourself and others.
This week I am offering a few gentle yoga practices for challenging news that you can do at your desk, by a wall or lying down.
Find Your Chest, Release Your Grief
Finding your body brings you into the here and now. These practices are designed to open up what BKS Iyengar calls the “armpit chest,” which can increase our ability to be present and courageous during difficult times. These exercises open and bring awareness to the lungs, which is an area of the body where grief and depression can get stuck. These movements encourage release and circulation, and are tools you can return to whenever you find yourself feeling stuck in despair.
Note: I’m offering a number of modifications, and I trust you will offer yourself any other modifications that support your needs.
This practice requires standing up, and proximity to a smooth wall.
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart, and the right side of your body about a foot away from the wall.
- Press your feet down into the ground and allow your arms to stretch along your sides. Take a few rounds of breath.
- Notice how it feels to breathe in your body. Notice any tension or tightness, and notice any looseness or numbness.
- Reach your right arm back behind you, a little higher than shoulder level. Press your palm into the wall, with your fingers fanning away from you.
- Reach your shoulders away from your ears, and move your shoulder blades down and into your back.
- Focus your attention to the top of your right chest and breathe into that space.
- Find a gazing point in front of you and take five deep breaths.
Now release, and turn around to repeat with the other side of your body.
Standing or Seated Practice
You can do this anywhere. I recommend you try this throughout the day.
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart, or sit with your feet planted on the ground.
- Clasp your hands behind your back, and gently stretch your arms away from your shoulders.
- Find a gazing point and take five breaths.
- Release and shake your hands and wrists.
- Stretch your fingers. Stretch your toes.
- Lie down on a mat using any props you like, or on a bed.
- I recommend placing a bolster or pillow under your knees, or above your thighs.
- Tuck your shoulder blades down and in towards the center of your back.
- Place your arms beside you, with your palms facing either down or up.
- Gently set your gaze upwards towards the ceiling.
- Stay here with your eyes open for a few minutes.
Dedicate this practice to someone who needs it. This person can be you.
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