I have been away the past week with my husband in NH, trying to relax and restore. You have heard the adage, the best laid plans? While we had a lovely time, some family issues at home caused us both some stress and worry. I reminded myself to focus on what I have to be grateful for and how I could keep my established boundaries while also being compassionate and helpful. It always seems easier for me to keep a good routine of exercise, healthy eating, good sleep, and a meditative yoga practice when things are going smoothly. Often, when a stressful event or chaotic schedule is upon us, and we could most benefit from these healthy habits, is when we are likely to let it go. While away I doubled down on the physical movement and made some time to get on my mat, perhaps not for power vinyasa, but for some stretching and a lovely yin practice online. When life hits some bumps in the road, I am suggesting we lean into our practice, and use the tools we have learned to smooth our way. It is a work in process.
Our Practice – Love For The Neck
I am always looking at ways to stretch and relax my neck muscles. We know that neck pain can be caused by poor posture, injury to the spine, tight muscles, and many other physiological causes. The National Institute of Health also confirms that “psychological risk factors, such as long-term stress, lack of social support, anxiety, and depression are important risk factors for neck pain”. When I am feeling stressed or anxious, I notice that my already tight neck and shoulder muscles feel even worse. This is where our practice can help with breathing and stretching to ease our way.
I do not call full neck circles in class, for me they can exacerbate neck strain or pain, some of you may find them helpful. Instead, I like the static side to side stretch and half circles which are more comfortable and effective to stretch and reduce tension.
From a comfortable seat with tall spine, drop chin to chest without rounding over and hold. Rotate head to the right with the right ear to the right adding right hand on head and left fingers out on the mat to deepen the stretch. Return head to chest and go to the other side. Hold each position for 5 smooth breaths.
From the same seated position, bring your left hand behind your body, resting your left hand on your right thigh or the floor behind you. Drop your head to the right and hold, then repeat the stretch on the opposite side. Hold each side for 10 smooth breaths.
For more detail and some additional neck stretches, check out this article in Yoga Journal
Meditation on Coping with Stress
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”― Dalai Lama XIV
I find this poem by Alexander Pope (which he wrote at the age of 12) to be so peaceful and calming.
Ode on Solitude
Happy the man, whose wish and care A few paternal acres bound, Content to breathe his native air, In his own ground.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread, Whose flocks supply him with attire, Whose trees in summer yield him shade, In winter fire.
Blest, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away, In health of body, peace of mind, Quiet by day.
Sound sleep by night; study and ease, Together mixed; sweet recreation; And innocence, which most does please, With meditation.
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown; Thus unlamented let me die; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lie.
Nurturing with Food – Spicy Red Lentils
While we were away we have been cooking some and going out. We brought along things from our freezer including this delicious red lentil stew that Pete created a few weeks ago adapting a few of his favorite recipes. Served with brown rice and a salad it was a delicious dinner! Nothing like homemade creamy, warming lentils to nurture your soul.
See you on the mat!