Cultivating Calm for "real" people
As we slide into July I'm still safely working from home and walking daily here in Axbridge, Somerset. I feel very blessed and incredibly fortunate to live where I do - rather than a crowded city or town. But that doesn't mean my life - or yours - has been without the obvious challenges. Cultivating Calm is important at the best of times - and in the current situation with doors beginning to open, lock down easing and opportunities to meet once again - we still need to keep vigilant.
What do I mean by "real" people? Well, that's you - and you - and me...We're all juggling life with it's current upside-down way of living to the best of our ability. We may know helpful tools but have forgotten some, or maybe it's hard to find time to use them with home schooling children or working from home. Keep reading for some simple - but very effective tips.
For some vigilant can mean "hypervigilant" - where the nervous system is in a constant "fight or flight" mode; for others the frustrations or sadness of not being able to see family can also trigger adrenaline or coristol (the stress hormones). High levels of anxiety and depression are being recorded - but here's the GOOD NEWS! We cannot change what's happening out there - but we can change what's happening within our own mind and body.
HERE'S SOME NEW, SIMPLE WAYS TO CULTIVATE CALM , whether that's "on the go" or finding a quiet space for 5 or 10 minutes...
And it doesn't have to be complicated at all (phew!)
1. COMMUNITY Here at the Birch Moon Wellbeing Centre we're continuing with our gentle, holistic yoga, meditation and chanting (see below for current schedule and details). What I've absolutely loved is the strength of our community that brings people together, offering friendship,encouragement and fun. And it's been a huge support to me too; the weekly schedule of classes has given us all structure and much-needed human contact (albeit through good old Zoom).
Creating Community is very important to me - so once a month we now have our Birch Moon Yoga Cafe. Our inaugural gathering was in June where we hopped onto Zoom with tea or coffee in hand (some with breakfast!), and I gave a short yoga-related talk (so that our yoga is relevant "off the mat"). Then we 'met' in Zoom rooms to chat about that - or anything else they fancied. A simple but effective way for people to get to know their fellow 'yogis' a little better. It was fun!
CONNECTING TO OTHERS CALMS OUR NERVOUS SYSTEM - it is primal, much needed, and soothing to the parasympathetic nervous system (the "rest and digest" part). So now we can officially meet others more easily (what a relief!) enjoy that much needed soothing of heart and mind.
2. CHANGE YOUR BREATH - CHANGE YOUR LIFE - We already know this - but still get caught up in our thoughts, the list of lists or just plain not thinking about how efficient our breathing is. PAUSE - take a slow, deep breath in, hold for a moment, then slooowwwwly exhale. Do that 3 times. I've been teaching breathing techniques for many years (started as part of my hypnotherapy training back in the late '80's) and of course it's fundamental to yoga. A) Place your hands on your belly, invite the breath down to meet your hands - it shifts us from upper breathing to diaphragm breathing. OR. B) Breathe in for a steady count of 4 - pause - and exhale for a count of 4. Repeat 5 times, see how you feel. C) Extending the exhale soothes the nervous system - so a pattern of Inhale 4 - pause - Exhale 6; repeat 3-5 times (10 is great!)
3. CATCH THOSE THOUGHTS - Our inner Stories can be juicy, we can get caught up in them with relish, shock, horror, self-righteousness, victim-hood, or just plain mundane 'stuff'... Whether we're conscious of our inner conversations or not - they're still there controlling our life. STOP! Yep, say it out loud (if possible) a very firm, STOP! Come back to your breath, notice the inhale...and the exhale...the inhale...and the exhale...Phew (again!) what a relief it is to stop that inner rubbish. Thoughts are just that - thoughts. Not real. Put a STOP! sign in helpful places...fridge, by a door handle, mirror, inside your purse/wallet...
Agitated thoughts create an agitated body. Equally, a sedentary lifestyle, boredom, stress, and bottled up frustrations all build up within us - and as you know the body-mind is a two-way street. You're probably already walking, doing yoga, or gardening - your body is built to move. But did you know - how we move through our daily tasks, our habitual posture and patterns of movement (even how we sit to eat for example) can directly influence our mood?
Sit and stand in a tall yet relaxed way to ensure you breathe and function well; walk mindfully, noticing your feet touching the earth; "more haste less speed" stops us rushing around; habits create tension - create new ways of being through your posture.
As a Positive Psychology and Resilience coach I have found that working with the mind/thoughts/beliefs alone is not enough. We need to move - for our mental health, physical health, and immune system support. If you are someone who, due to a health condition has limited movement, move and stretch in your chair. (see YouTube for many options).
5. LAUGHTER! For my sins, I am a Laughter Workshop Facilitator...terribly un-British you know...to laugh for no good reason! But get this..THE BODY CAN'T TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REAL AND FAKE LAUGHTER! TRUE!
In Laughter Yoga we fake it til we make it...but do this through gentle exercises that gradually "warm us up". We do this with an open mind, an open heart - and a willingness (because after all, we're at the workshop to boost our mood naturally, improve our immune system, reduce blood pressure, make better, easier connections with others - and overall improve our well being) So we have to be willing...In my yoga classes we've taken a slow deep breath in...arms above the head...and then exhaled with a "hahahaha" - great for cleansing the lungs of stale air, and on a subconscious level - it's a sneaky laugh! TV programmes, films, YouTube has Laughter yoga examples...
Try it now...Allow a gentle smile to touch your lips, now allow a warmth to enter your eyes (think of someone you care about), make the smile bigger...Oh go on...bigger than that! And send that smile down through your body. Do this daily and I promise you'll feel the difference.
6. Humming For Health! I've been teaching people "humming for health" for over 20 years...whether that's the yoga Bhramari (humming bee breath) or a practice based on the work of Dr Alfred Tomatis (an ENT specialist) - humming calms the mind, improves breathing, and is soothing to the nervous system. A steady, low volume humming has multiple benefits and acts like an internal massage - so eases out physical tensions - and reduces agitation, anxiety and frustration. It's been shown to lower high blood pressure too. Get humming a tune - or a gentle one-note - couple of minutes can make a HUGE difference.
I hope these ideas have reminded you of tools you already have - even better if you feel intrigued enough to give some or all a go...let me know how you got on?
Stay well, enjoy Cultivating your Calm , and look forward to connecting soon.
Many blessings, Sarena
UPCOMING CLASSES, RETREATS AND WORKSHOPS
Yoga - Meditation & Healing Chant
For further details and booking Sound & Silence see HERE
The Sound of Grace Retreat Weekend
Friday 11th - Sunday 13th September 2020
Gentle Yoga, chant, music, and stillness…
Nr Lyme Regis and Charmouth, Dorset
Deeply relaxing, uplifting and nourishing – come and join us to ease your way forward from the COVID-19 situation. Whilst we have a programme planned, it will also reflect your needs as an individual and group and will be co-created. This weekend is still scheduled to go ahead – can’t wait!
Based in a Grade II listed house, within a secluded valley, near Charmouth/Lyme Regis in Dorset. September still holds the warmth of summer, that magical essence of ‘promise’, and the 11 acres of gardens, meadows and woodland offer the perfect environment to unwind and be still…Interested? See HERE