I started practicing yoga a few years ago, as a form of de-stressing and quieting my mind. It was during that intense time of postpartum anxiety. My midwife had prescribed exercise and sex as natural remedies to boost my serotonin levels rather than going on medication (smart midwife!). Although I loved running, I had been experiencing some knee pain, and a high impact workout really wasn't appealing at the time. I needed peace and quiet.
I decided to try a yoga class to see what all the yoga hype was about. I was sold after the first class. I mean, I felt completely different. My tense, tight body could actually bend again. I was breathing in full, even breaths, and my mind was quiet… my mind is rarely ever quiet. Ever.
I wish I could say, I faithfully attended this yoga class every week since, but my schedule hasn't always allowed it. I will tell you this, though. I pay the price, when I'm not doing it. I'm a believer. This year I am back in classes and can honestly say, my life is better for it.
Rather than trying to be an expert in a field I am not, I asked my instructor, Merci Hoskins, to share tips and a yoga sequence that us moms can do, at any time, right from home. I highly recommend going to a class because there is SO much to learn about form, and I need those gentle reminders to BREATHE.
Merci is a busy mom of 3, who relates to the daily chaos. She has been coaching healthy living through exercise and nutrition for over 20 years. She says, "Through all of the fitness fads and trends that I have seen, the one essential ingredient that remains constant is balance." The programs she develops provide balance both physically and mentally through the connection of mind, body and spirit. (You can follow her here for more!)
I think you'll enjoy what she has to say...
Q: You are a busy mom of three kids and wear many hats. What do you do to stay grounded?
A: Ha, ha, ha! As a mom with three kids staying grounded is a tough one. Some days the best I can do is touch the ground every now and then. To make it possible, the first thing I do, is remind myself to breathe. I also work well when I have a list to go from, so when my head starts to spin, I make a list of all the things flying around in there causing the anxiety. Then I break the list down into priorities and start with what can be done in the present moment and go from there, knowing that some of those swirling vortexes will need to be addressed at a different time.
Q: We've talked about rituals in another post for this series, and how they can help curb anxiety. Do you have any special rituals?
A: Making and sipping a cup of herbal tea is one of my self care rituals. Whether I am sharing it with a friend or enjoying the peace and quiet of the house after the kids have been tucked into bed, it represents a time to slow down and breathe.
Q: What inspires you?
A: I am inspired by teaching others and helping them bring healthy changes into their lives. The human spirit is an amazing source of inspiration. The joy I receive in the success of others is an incredible power source.
Q: What drew you to the practice of yoga and becoming an instructor?
A: I have been in the fitness industry for over 20 years. My focus has always been on functional strength, training people with the purpose of teaching a better quality of life through healthy lifestyle changes. When I injured my back a few years ago I found great relief through the practice of yoga. With that new found tool in my fitness toolbox, I decided that many of my clients could benefit from these teachings as well, so I did the training needed to become a 200 hour certified instructor.
Q: How can yoga decrease anxiety? I mean, can they even coexist?
A: The practice of yoga is helpful in anxiety reduction both on and off the mat. By learning to use your breath, stretching tense muscles and quieting your mind through the time spent on your mat, you are able to apply these techniques when faced with the stressors in your everyday life.
Q: As a yoga instructor/wellness coach, what can you tell us about the connection between exercise and stress?
A: Regular exercise decreases stress levels through chemical and behavioral changes. Endorphins (feel good neurotransmitters) are increased, stress hormones (adrenaline and coritsol) are decreased, sleep is often improved, movement provides a distraction from the thoughts bringing anxiety, and many will experience an improvement in body image.
Q: Please share a yoga sequence specifically relating to managing/relieving stress and anxiety.
1. Seated Cross Leg – Take a few minutes to focus on your breath; pay attention to each inhale and each exhale.
2. Cow – From hands and knees, inhale as you pull your chest forward, spread across your collar bones and look forward.
3. Cat – From hands and knees, exhale as you round your spine to the ceiling and pull your belly button towards your spine.
4. Child's Pose – Exhale as you drop your hips back toward your heels and extend arms forward.
5. Forward Fold – With slightly bent or straight knees let your upper body hang forward with neck relaxed.
6. Simple Twist – Arms extend to side, left leg straight, right leg bent, twist right leg to the left, option to put left hand on right knee and look right, repeat on other side.
7. Bridge – Knees bent and hip-width apart, inhale and raise hips to the ceiling, spread through your collarbones and relax your chin away from your chest.
For more fitness and lifestyle tips, follow Merci's Facebook page.