After a whole year and then some of social distancing, avoiding gatherings, working from home, and online everything as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s finally Spring again and we can feel a little better about being outdoors. But this also means that many people are returning to the office, children are returning to in-person instruction, and we may finally be able to catch up with a couple of friends. All of this is wonderful news… and has all of a sudden made us all really busy.
Last Spring, many people were struggling with too much unstructured time and a lack of routine at home because of all of the sudden changes that the Pandemic brought about. This Spring, many people have been adding more and more to their plate, feeling a sense of responsibility or obligation to go places and see people that they had not seen in a while, or even just being more productive. Part of the issue is that most people equate “being productive” with “being busy”, though these are very different concepts.
Pandemic stress is a whole other kind of stress because it is not just about juggling life responsibilities. There is also what has been referred to as pandemic fatigue, which is a type of stress that includes the physical and mental fatigue that results from overuse of technology and screen time over time, poor structure and routine, as well as overexposure to the ongoing talk about the pandemic both in private conversations and in the news. Because pandemic stress is different from anything else we have experienced, it requires a different approach or solution. You may find that watching TV shows and movies, taking bubble baths, or other forms of self-care that once were effective, no longer have the same results.
If you have experienced this “hitting a wall” feeling, yoga is one of the best places to turn. Why? Because it helps reduce stress in a more holistic way, like reducing our blood pressure, muscle tension, anxious thoughts, feeling overwhelmed - all of the things that are caused by or can magnify as stress.
Is stress that bad?
Stress is a natural body response to a situation where we feel threatened or in danger. It is what kicks our senses into overdrive so that we can be alert and protect ourselves. Stress can also be positive and helpful in situations like finishing a task or deadline on time because it floods your body with chemicals that make you move quickly and efficiently.
Unfortunately, too many of us experience stress to the extent where it is no longer helpful but harmful. The majority of us experience the majority of our stress outside of these short helpful bursts. Most days, we are not living in the face of any sort of danger, but our bodies think that we are because it’s how we tend to react to things that make us feel angry, nervous, or frustrated.
Another way in which yoga can help with stress reduction and management is through more mindful, rhythmic, and deeper breathing. Yogic breathing stimulates a cranial nerve in our body that affects our parasympathetic nervous system to help bring our heart rates and blood pressure back down. In other words, the breath gets you out of fight or flight mode and into a state of rest and digestion. But that’s not all. Yogic breathing also helps to build nervous system resilience over time, so that your body learns to be less reactive to stress or anxiety.
If you’re looking for an effective and long-term solution to stress, try our trauma-sensitive yoga in Jacksonville. We will be happy to help you with your stress management through a mindful and holistic approach. Whether or not you are practicing restorative yoga or a more energizing flow here with us already, we wanted to equip you with three of our favorite stress management yoga postures that you can do anytime:
Child's Pose (Balasana)
Come to a kneeling position on your yoga mat and bring your knees about mat distance apart. Allow your toes to touch behind you and slowly send your hips back, leaving the arms extended out in front of you and your forehead resting on the mat.
Follow your breath as you inhale, and it expands your lungs and exhale out of the nose or mouth. Call attention to any areas of tension in the body - focus the breath into those spaces.
Eye of the Needle Pose (Sucirandhrasana)
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor. Hug your right knee into your chest, then bring your right ankle across your midline to rest on your left thigh. Bring your left foot off the floor and thread your right arm through your legs so your hands can clasp behind your left thigh. Use your hands to pull your thigh toward your chest for a deeper hip opening. Keep both feet flexed to protect the knee. Repeat on the other side.
Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Lie on your back and walk your feet up the wall as you scoot your bottom toward it. Once you are far enough, your legs should be able to lie comfortably against the wall, so you’re making an “L” with your body. Place one hand on your chest and one on your belly to follow the breath, or just let your arms fall to your side.
Priscila Norris, LCSW, RYT
Psychotherapist, Yoga Teacher