Let’s be real—as the world is slowly reopening, many of us are on edge and stressed. We’ve become accustomed to a more restricted and less scheduled way of life. Some of us have been working from home, indulging in unhealthy habits more than we should, and finding every excuse in the book to stay in bed and not move our bodies. Others may have taken advantage of not having a commute to start working out from home, and the ‘return to normal’ is actually disrupting some positive habits.
While you may have all kinds of emotions swirling around inside as society seemingly goes from 0 to 100, it is time to (safely) start living again. A healthy way to balance our brains and find peace during this unprecedented time is yoga. Here’s how to use yoga for your mental health as you adapt to this new normal.
Three ways yoga can reduce pandemic fatigue
Yoga can benefit people affected by pandemic-induced fatigue in a few key ways:
- “Fight or flight” to “here and now”– Rather than working from the top down, yoga works from the bottom up, starting with the brain stem and limbic system. The brain stem’s primary function is to regulate the most basic aspects of life. Meanwhile, the limbic system is responsible for memory and emotions, including our responses to reward and punishment.
- Movement and meditation– A standard, well-rounded yoga class involves cycles of stimulation and calming to facilitate a regulation of the nervous system. This balance of movement and ongoing stillness allows the body to discover its own rhythm and sense of stabilization.
- Social reintegration– Yoga taps into the Vagus nerve, which oversees an array of crucial bodily functions, including control of mood, immune response and heart rate. Many people who have experienced deep stress may feel uncomfortable being in social situations. However, if a yoga teacher establishes their class as a safe place and offers a structured sequence and overall stability, they can help build trust and confidence in each student. This gives each student the ability to be in relationship with themselves and others around them.
Four yoga poses to relax your mind
There are several great poses to help us as we resume busier schedules, social obligations, and daily commutes. Whether you’re a “bendy Betty” or can barely reach your toes, yoga can help you reconnect with the world around you. Four yoga poses I often recommend at YogaSix to restore and relax your mind and body include:
- Happy Baby: For this pose, you will lay on your back. Raise your knees in the air and grab the outside of each foot. Be sure to keep your elbows in between your legs. This pose is great for opening your hips and breathing deeply.
- Reclining Bound Angle Pose: To enter into this pose, lay on your back and bring the bottoms of your feet together on the floor, making a diamond shape with your legs. Remain here for several minutes, breathing deeply through the pose.
- Child’s pose: Child’s pose actually has a similar shape to Happy Baby. However, instead of facing the ceiling, you are facing the floor. For this pose, come to a tabletop position on all fours. Bring your big toes to touch (shoelace side of the feet down), and shift your knees wide. Sink your hips back towards your feet, allowing your torso and forehead to rest toward the ground. For maximum relaxation, slide a big pillow or bolster under your chest, and turn your head to one side. As you breathe deeply, your lower back and hips will open up and your mind will find calm.
- Half Pigeon: This pose gives your hips an opportunity to really open up and sink into the floor. Place one bent leg in front of you, with the other leg stretched out to the back. Your pelvis should be evenly supported on both sides. As you breathe into this position, you can relax and hold this for several minutes.
So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and sink into these poses. Your mind and body will thank you. In due time, you will be reacclimated to the fast pace of life, similar to how it was before the world slowed down.