I like to use a relaxing yoga class to transform myself from my stressed out busy mom personality into my calmer, less reactive, and happier mom personality. Today after yoga class a friend of mine stated “that class was too slow, now I need to go home and workout”. A year ago that would have been me. I used to run from yoga class to bootcamp class. After becoming a yoga instructor, I have finally realized that, at times, there is more value in the calm. Recharging my mind and body is key to a happy lifestyle.
That lifestyle often offers me the ability to transform myself into a calmer/ less anxious person. On a turbulent plane I can now breathe through the fear. In the face of chaos at home, I can breathe through the stress. And, I can now take a deep diaphragmatic breath that will slow my heart rate (I’ve actually monitored it).
While there is a huge need for heart rate pumping classes, these are less likely to calm you down or to help make you less reactive. I love high intensity interval training but today we are discussing more meditative/ calmer classes- a relaxing yoga class to get you through the stress of the holiday season. Think of this class as the chamomile tea that you sip in the evening as opposed to the coffee you drink in the morning.
I have created the following transformative yoga class to help you learn to use your breath and movement to release stress and calm an anxious mind.
Make sure to use downward facing dog as the “home base” pose that prepares the body for the next asana (pose). Forward bends and hip openers will further calm the nervous system and release tension. Twists will help the body to detox. If you spend a fair amount of time in the twists (go at your own pace and only go into the poses that feel right to you) you will want to follow up by drinking a lot of water throughout the day to flush your system.
At the end, lying on a relaxing bolster and reciting the meditation will provide you with a very happy and calming experience.
- 1-3 minutes Sit cross-legged on the floor and set your intention try breathing in for 5, holding for 3 and breathing out for 10. On inhale crawl to all fours.
- 5 Cat/ Cow tilts walk arms out in front of you
- 5 breaths Child's pose Rise up
- 30 seconds Downward facing dog Jump or step feet to meet hands. Rise up.
- 3 breath sets Tadasana Breathe in for 5, hold for 3 and exhale for 10.
- 2 breaths Forward Fold Move arms up to meet shins and open chest/ shoulders
- 2 breaths Half forward fold Palms to the ground (use blocks if necessary)
- 2 breaths Forward fold exhale and on inhale jump or step back
- 30 seconds Plank
- right into Chaturanga Dandasena
- 2 breaths Upward facing dog
- 5 breaths Downward facing dog
- 3 breaths Forward fold
- 2 breaths Tadasana
- 30 seconds Tree Pose on each side (I like to start on the right) take a vinyasa flow in-between sides
- 5 breaths Downward facing dog/ pedal feet
- lunge right foot forward and place back heel on floor
- 5-10 breaths warrior 2 to extended side angle to triangle pose do all 3 poses on each side with vinyasa flow in-between
- 30 seconds eagle pose hold on each side with optional vinyasa flow in-between
- 3 breaths tadasana
- 5 breaths downward facing dog
- 3 breaths child's pose with side stretches flip on to back/ supine position
- 5-10 breaths supta parivartanasana (lying down and twisting) Do twice on each side
- 2 minutes legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)
- 5-10 minutes Savasana at end roll to right side and slowly reawaken your body. use your left arm to help you get up.
Here is a nice meditation to accompany the class:
An excerpt from Buddha’s Book of Sleep by Joseph Emet
Some people think that the purpose of meditation is to stop the mind. They sit, and they try. Soon they get into a fight with their mind, a fight that they lose. Frustrated, they give up. Do you recognize yourself in this scenario?
Calming the mind is a more appropriate goal, and a good way to do it is by paying attention to the breath. When we are daydreaming, the breath follows the rhythm of our thoughts. That rhythm can be irregular, because we are going from thought to thought, from one thing to another. As we continue to follow the breath instead of our thoughts, the breath gets into a steady, regular rhythm.
Usually we follow our thoughts without any attention to the breath. Here, we reverse that — we follow our breath. At the beginning, we treat our thoughts a little bit like the way we treat the radio in the background. As we do other things, we are aware that the radio is playing, but we do not follow it actively. For example, when the announcer says, “Go and buy that car right now, because it is so amazing,” we do not drop everything and rush out to buy it. We have learned to take an attitude of sophisticated detachment with regard to the radio. Now we cultivate the same detached attitude toward our thoughts.
Our work in meditation right now is concentrating on the breath. This means staying with the breath and the sensations of the breath continuously. I don’t know if you have ever followed a single breath from end to end and paid attention to all the sensations that occur. One single breath can make you aware of your posture, of how tight your belt is, and of any tension in your abdominal muscles.
The breath is like a swing on the playground. As you breathe in, first it accelerates. Then it slows down near the end. Then it comes to an unstable stop and starts going again in the other direction. The speed is always changing. To notice all this, you need not only awareness, but also concentration. You need to concentrate so that you are not only aware during brief moments of this cycle, but you are continuously aware of it during the whole cycle, cycle after cycle.
I Can Feel My Breath in a Number of Ways:
- I can feel it in my diaphragm.
- I can feel my clothes adjusting as my diaphragm changes shape.
- I can feel the rush of air in my nostrils.
- I can also feel a coolness around my nostrils as I breathe in.
If you have trouble noticing that last item, put your finger horizontally against your nostrils for a few seconds. You will feel the change of temperature as you breathe in and out.
By concentrating on the breath, we are offering the mind something other than thoughts to chew on. This works better than fighting with it to get it to slow down.
Within a few minutes, something different starts to happen: the breath finds its natural rhythm. In normal wakefulness, thoughts are zipping through the mind, and the breath is irregular and staccato. Now the breath follows a more regular rhythm, like that of the waves on the beach. Like the waves, the breath comes from somewhere we don’t know. Then it goes inside, and gets lost, like the waves that get absorbed into the sand. Some of the water gets returned back to the ocean, but it is not exactly the same. Now it has cleaned the beach and is carrying back some debris and also the warmth of the sand with it. The breath has also just cleaned the body, and the out breath is warm and full of carbon dioxide. You can let yourself be guided by this mental imagery. Involve all your senses and now bask in the sunshine on that beach for a few minutes and enjoy the whish of the waves.
Another metaphor: What is happening in the mind at this point is also a little bit like the difference between city driving and long- distance driving. In city driving, there is much stopping and starting and emotions like impatience or irritation. When you settle into long-distance driving, all those calm down. The rhythm changes.
During this breathing exercise, you may find that, after a while, concentration comes naturally. At the beginning, concentration required effort. Now this natural rhythm of the breath takes over. Thoughts lose their urgency at this stage.
MEDITATION EXERCISE TO CALM THE MIND
Read this and other meditation texts slowly, with a short pause between instructions.
The past has already gone and the future is yet to come.
I am concentrating on being peaceful, happy, and free in this present moment.
Now I’m concentrating on being aware of each breath.
My attention on the breath is continuous.
I follow the breath as it begins, and my abdomen starts to expand.
I continue to pay attention as my abdomen rises and falls with each breath,
like a child going high and low on a swing.
Like a swing, my breath slows down at each end.
I follow it all the way as it slows down, and starts again.
I embrace my breath with all my care and attention,
like a mother holds her baby.
I do not drop the baby.
Thoughts stay in the background.
I enjoy the rhythmic rise and fall of my abdomen;
I enjoy staying in the here and the now.
I have stopped running forward and backward.
My mind keeps producing thoughts; that is its nature.
I do not follow the thoughts.
I concentrate on my breath.
I’m comfortable and at ease.
With each breath, I let go of tension somewhere in my body and mind.
I’m aware that thoughts can bring tension to my face.
With each breath, I relax my face muscles and smile.
There are sensations in my body, I accept them. I am aware of my posture.
I am aware of the rush of air around my nostrils as I breathe in.
If there are sounds, I do not react to them.
I just notice them and let them go.
I continue to enjoy my breathing peacefully.
A river of feelings and thoughts is flowing, but I am not drowning in it.
The concentration on the breath is like the anchor that
prevents the boat from drifting.
Focusing on my breath keeps me from getting lost in thought.
I notice sounds and skin sensations without reacting to them.
I smile at disturbances such as memories, little itches, and noises.
Smiling relaxes me. I feel content.
With each breath I arrive in the here and the now—
I’m sitting upright, breathing comfortably.
My mind is peaceful, my body free of tension.
I am calm and rested.
I feel free. I feel at home.
Share this special post with your family and friends who could use a little relaxation this holiday season.
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