We’ve all been there. Too many requests for our time and our energy. It can come at us all at once and from all angles: from our boss, colleagues, staff, spouse, kids, friends, and family. Not to mention the multiple forms it can come at us: via phone, text, email, or social media. We’ve been forced into becoming a generation of multitaskers. It’s no wonder we often end up losing our cool, reacting impulsively (which often makes us use more time and our precious energy to clean up the new mess we’ve just created) instead of finding a moment to take a breath, listen and then respond with composure and poise. So, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of losing your cool, STOP! Do whatever you need to do in order to give yourself a moment. Turn off your computer and your phone. Find a quiet place to rid all external distractions for 2 minutes, and begin to start to breathe your body. Connect from within and follow along with the video posted below.
BREATHE YOUR BODY
Place your left hand on your heart and right hand on your belly. Notice how your chest and belly expand on your inhale and contract on your exhale. Start with a few inhalations through your nose and exhalations out your mouth. Eventually allow your breath to travel in and out of your nose. Allow your central nervous system to calm naturally while you focus on your breath. Soften your forehead, the space between your eyes and your jaw. Feel your heartbeat and notice the rate start to drop as you settle yourself. Spend as much time as you need here.
RELEASE PHYSICAL TENSION
We live in a society that spends most of our time with our spines in flexion, which is a mild or major rounding through the mid and upper back or thoracic region. This in turn rounds our shoulders, closes off our chest and jets our head forward. The scary thing is many of us are not even aware that this is happening. The outcome? Chronic pain in the neck, trapeze muscles, shoulders and upper back will then often lead to lower back pain, and then morph into many other issues.
One of the best yoga postures/stretches I’ve found to help elevate all this is known as eagle arms, or garudasana. This specifically targets the upper back and that space between your shoulder blades. Keep in mind, the most important part of this posture, once you get into it, is your breath. Your body will never be able to let go of anything if you’re holding your breath or constantly bracing yourself.
Eagle Arms can be taken in any variation, whether seated or standing. As you can see in the video, I am in a comfortable seated position with a tall spine.
To start, take your arms out wide like wings, allowing your chest to expand on the inhale. Then on the exhale, wrap your right arm under your left (once, or maybe twice) until your palms connect. Always work within your own range and ability. Shoulders are a vulnerable joint, so be very gentle with this stretch.
Now, send your breath to your upper back, expanding your rib cage and intercostal muscles. You should immediately feel an improvement in your breath capacity. We spend so much of our time belly breathing or taking shallow breaths into the front of the chest, so mindfully take the time to focus your breath towards your upper back, which will create more space between your shoulder blades.
Lift your elbows at least shoulder height (perpendicular to the floor) and press your forearms away from you. Expand your upper back through pressing your forearms forward on the inhale. Then, on the exhale, feel the space that has been created between your shoulder blades. Gaze at the tips of your thumbs. Smile. Take 5-10 breaths and switch sides.
By stretching the front of your heart space and placing your spine in extension, you’ll be able to counteract all that rounding of the back caused by sitting throughout the day. By expanding through your chest, neck, collarbone and pectorals, your upper back muscles (rhomboids) won’t have to work as hard to maintain good posture. This will give you more freedom in your upper body.
Take a deep breath and expand your arms out wide like a T. On an exhale of breath, gently lift your sternum towards the ceiling and extend through your upper back. Maintain strength through your lower belly. This will protect your lower back and ensure that the backbend isn’t coming from the lumbar region of your spine. The extension should be occurring through your mid/upper back. Keep pressing your hips forward and continue lifting up and back.
Only extend back as far as is comfortable for you. Be mindful of your neck. Make sure you are comfortable enough to be able to take at least 5 deep inhales and exhales before mindfully returning to a neutral spine.
Allow yourself to BE. Just as you are. There is nothing to fix, change or do in this very moment. Everything is perfect. Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. Smile! Allow your attention to seep into all that is working for you in your life. There is so much abundance. Appreciate your life in this moment and allow your complaints to drop away.
Now, begin again. One item on your to-do list at a time. You’ve got this!