“Mum/Dad can you help me with this fraction?”, “Mum the internet has stopped working and I need to…”, “Dad its break time can we play some football?” “Mum, I’m really missing my friends.”
I could go on and on! It is wonderful to have the opportunity to slow down some aspects of our lives and to spend more time with our children but for many we are also worrying about holding a safe space for our children and jugging work whilst navigating a sensible path through a global pandemic. Our sympathetic nervous systems are in overdrive, our anxiety levels are rising, and we still need to find an answer to solving that complicated fraction!
These 5 tips can help you to stretch, release physical tension and engage the para sympathetic nervous system and quite simply calm down. These can be practised alone or even with your children and teens.
1. Standing forward fold (Uttanasana) – simply standing with your feet hip distance apart, a slight bend to the knees and take a in a lovely long inhalation through the nose. As you exhale fold forward and down. Keep the knees bent if you need to whilst pressing the feet into the floor to feel grounded and secure. With each inhale lengthening a little through the torso and as you exhale fold further and release. This is a wonderful pose for balancing the nervous system, calming the mind and releasing tension. With your arms you can take hold of your elbows and sway from side to side and enjoy some gentle movement (like a ragdoll) or if your shoulders feel tight interlace your fingers behind your back and lift them up as you fold forwards enjoying a delicious stretch for the shoulders.
2. Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana) – step back into a downward dog pose (an inverted V shape) but continue to walk the feet on the spot. Lift one heel as you inhale and then lower and lift the other heel as you exhale. Slow mindful movements are incredibly calming. This pose provides a great stretch for the body as well as lengthening and energizing. Draw your awareness to your breath, inhale through your nose but explore exhaling through your mouth- literally sigh the breath out or even better flutter your lips – exhaling with your lips vibrating as the breath passes out. A great way to release tension in the jaw!
3. Puppy pose (Uttana Shishosana)- drop down onto your knees but keep stretching your arms forward into a puppy pose (if you have a cat or puppy you will see them do this frequently). This pose provides a great stretch for the shoulders – indeed try dropping your elbows to the floor and bringing your hands together above your head.
4. Seated twist (Parivrtta Sukhasana) – come to a seated position on the floor (sit on a cushion if that is more comfortable). Sitting like this provides a great stretch for the hips, knees and ankles. As Yoga teacher Mandy Ingber said, “We hold a lot of emotional energy in the hips, which is why they are often tight”, so sitting and releasing this emotional energy is so beneficial to our overall wellbeing. Now add a twist to increase movement and flexibility through the spine and shoulders. Raise your arms up as you inhale through your nose and as you exhale through your nose simply place your right hand over your left knee and place your left hand on the floor behind you whist turning your gaze to your left. Repeat on the other side. Twists give your external and internal body a good squeeze and stretch so boosting flagging energy!
5. Calming breathing- Box breathing is a wonderfully calming rhythmic breathing technique which you can practice here as part of a short yoga routine or indeed any time when feeling overwhelmed. Its great for all ages and kids/teens can add a simple visualization and even a four-sided doodle whilst practising this. Simply inhale through the nose to the count of four, retain the breath for the count of four, exhale through the nose to the count of four and hold your lungs empty for the count of four. Keep the jaw and shoulders soft and repeat this for as long as needed or feels comfortable.
Now…. you are ready to sort out those fractions!