Do you feel scared?
In your gut. In your tight thigh muscles. In your shallow breath.
Fear can be collective or personal, or both. It is hard not to feel the fear during a pandemic. When friends, family or one step away gets taken into hospital, the fear rises.
The emotion of fear is associated with the root chakra - the base of our torso - and is linked to safety and survival. There's a similarity here to Maslow's heirarchy of needs. You can literally feel it in the tightness of your hips, or your digestion.
When our safety is compromised, we go on high alert. Our sympathetic nervous system is active and the adrenal glands get busy releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline, pumping blood to our larger muscles in the legs and arms to prime us for fight, flight or freeze. Breathing rate, heart rate and blood pressure increase. Repair and digestion are halted. At some point, we need to release this pent up energy. I don't know many people who are having as much cardiovascular exercise in lockdown as they used to, but this is exactly what we need to disperse the chemicals in our body.
Have you ever wondered why your leg muscles are feeling tight, when you haven't done anything to warrant it? Or maybe you do a tricep stretch and are surprised at how tight they are. Perhaps your digestion is not great, or you're not sleeping well. We are good at creating chemicals through the fight-flight-freeze response, but not so good at dispersing them. Keep on stretching!
Yoga is a great tool for settling the nervous system:
- Awareness of the breath - rate, location, shallow/deep
- Breath practices to bring the breath into balance (calming)
- Awareness of the location of emotions (early warning signals)
- Movement to disperse built-up energy
- Targeted stretches to release tight muscles
- Restorative poses to fight fatigue
- Witnessing and observing feelings and behaviour (so you can learn to self-regulate)
- Knowledge of the mind and emotions
No fancy poses required. If you'd like any guidance, I'm here to help you with private yoga and health & wellness one-to-ones.
I like to tap into the collective energy when I choose the theme for my weekly classes - Release & Relax, Seasonal Yoga and Teen Yoga. This week I have been focusing on fear. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this emotion is linked to the Water Element, the organs Kidney and Bladder and their energy pathways, and the season of Winter.
In class, we started with a 3 part breath, (hands on belly, ribs, collarbones) to increase awareness of our breath in our bodies. We also did Balanced Breath, which is breathing in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts, then adding a pause at the top of the inhale and bottom of the exhale. In Teen Yoga, we also enjoyed an element of journalling, exploration and visualisation. Then we loosened up the joints (esp. the hips) and started to flow. I chose sequences that stretched out the legs, triceps and the side-body (linked to the liver meridian and great for dispersing stress). We moved on to some "moving clouds" qigong which is slow and gentle, and helps to soften and relax the sympathetic state. Then to some stretches of the quads and hips, with some forward folds to down-regulate the nervous system. Fear and anxiety both rise through the body, so it is useful to down-regulate the nervous system with grounding poses.
I'll leave you with 3 go-to tools at your fingertips:
1. Hug and breathe together (no rush)
2. Childs pose for 10-20 mins (see image above)
3. Stroke a pet and watch it breathe
And of course, a weekly yoga class or two :)
I guide weekly yoga classes, private yoga and Health & Wellness one-to-ones. Coming soon, 5 week Sleep Recovery Programme. To enquire or book email Nicky@loveyogabird.com or go to https://www.loveyogabird.com.