Take the edge off on National Relaxation Day

I remember watching a documentary called “Antarctica: A Year On Ice” (2013). Maybe you’ve seen it too. It’s a window into what life is like living on the harshest place on earth. What does that have to do with relaxing, you might ask?

Living in Antarctica is certainly not for the faint of heart, but comments from people who made the journey, and lived there for a year, talk about the peace they felt. What I found so profound, besides the beautiful photography, was the feeling at the very end of the movie when these individuals returned to their regular lives back home. They were returning to a fast-paced, crowded and stressful lifestyle, so different from the peace they felt while in Antarctica.

Peace … how do you achieve it in a chaotic world? I think there are many of us who live stressful lifestyles. Stress is inevitable, but we still need to rest and relax for the sake of our health. Relaxation reduces blood pressure and heart rate. It increases blood flow to our muscles. It reduces feelings of anger and frustration. Now, I’m not suggesting you move to Antarctica, but there are techniques you can do to find peace.

All work and no play can make one unhealthy

Relaxing doesn’t mean laying on the couch. Sure, that can help, but it requires a change of pace and, perhaps, a change of habits. That means doing activities like taking walks, writing in a journal and/or using relaxation techniques. Below are just some of the ways you can find your inner peace.

  • Deep breathing – This is probably the easiest, simplest technique you can do anywhere. Breathing deeply encourages full oxygen exchange. Sit comfortably straight. Breathe deep through the belly from your nose. Count as you breathe out slowly through your mouth. This stimulates the vagus nerve, activates your relaxation response, reduces your heart rate and blood pressure and lowers stress levels.1
  • Self massage – You can do this at your desk at work, on the couch or in bed before sleep. Combine it with deep breathing, essential oils and soft music. Start by kneading the muscles at the back of the neck and shoulders. Make a loose fist and go up and down the sides and back of your neck. Next, use your thumbs to work tiny circles around the base of the skull. Tap your fingers against your scalp, moving from the front to the back and over the sides. Then massage your face by making tiny circles with your fingertips. Lastly, close your eyes and inhale and exhale for a short time.2
  • Repetitive prayer – If spirituality is meaningful to you, try repeating a short prayer or part of a prayer while focusing on your breath.
  • Yoga and tai chi – Breathing is at the heart of these practices. They’ve been done for thousands of years, so it’s no wonder they are still practiced today. They can be very soothing to the body and help you find calm amid the chaos. They can also help you improve balance and flexibility while strengthening the body.
  • Mindfulness meditation – This involves focusing on what is happening in the moment, not in the past or future. Pay attention to how your body feels right now.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation – Another easy one to do. This involves tensing each muscle group (feet, calves, thighs, hands, arms, buttocks, stomach, chest, neck and shoulders, mouth, eyes and forehead) and then suddenly releasing the tension. Always start at your feet. Again, combine this with deep breathing and relaxing music.
  • Visualization – This involves imagining a scene in which you feel at peace. This could be a tropical beach, a favorite childhood spot, Antarctica (?), or a quiet wooded area. Use all your senses to visualize the scene, the smell, how it feels, what you hear, what you taste and what you see.
  • Rhythmic movement – any movement that gets you into a flow can be very relaxing. This includes walking, swimming, running and similar exercises. Add visualization or mindfulness to this for more effect.

Starting a regular relaxation practice

However you choose to relax, make sure to set aside time for yourself every day. Start with 10 minutes a day and aim for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your choice of technique. After a while you will truly harness the stress-relieving power of relaxation.

Happy National Relaxation Day!

1 https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response

2 https://www.thejoint.com/tennessee/collierville/collierville-16006/197630-how-to-self-massage-for-relaxation

Yoga – peace among the chaos

The Department of Health and Human Services has designated September as National Yoga Month to educate about the health benefits of yoga and inspire a healthy lifestyle.

More than just a physical exercise program, yoga can help people achieve clarity and harmony in life. You don’t need any special skills to begin practicing yoga. Yoga offers the opportunity to improve your mind, body and spirit; improvements in your balance and poses will come naturally as you practice.

Yoga is a healthy discipline

A friend once told me she wanted to find a yoga class that would maintain her interest. She had attended many classes, but she got bored with them, either from a lack of connection with the teacher, the type of yoga, or because it just wasn’t the “right” time.

There is a plethora of wonderful yoga classes and amazing teachers at the gym I go to. I attended a few yoga classes because I thought I needed the calming affect they provide, but I never felt I accomplished anything. Sometimes I felt more stressed because it wasn’t the high-intensity exercise I was used to.  What I didn’t realize is that there are many kinds of yoga available, from the meditative, calming kind to more physically demanding classes.

Styles of yoga

Hatha yoga and Yin yoga are good choices for beginners. These are both slower paced and use the classic approach to breathing and exercise. If you want to relax, these styles are for you.

If you are looking for yoga that is slow and comfortable, try Iyengar yoga. This kind focuses on precise movements. Poses are held for longer periods of time while focusing on controlled breathing. This class often uses props to help hold your pose.1

Kundalini yoga is equal parts spiritual and physical. This type really works your core and breathing, with fast-moving, invigorating postures and breathing exercises.1

Ashtanga yoga is for the advanced person. These postures are more physically demanding, with standing and floor postures. 1

Vinyasa yoga is the most athletic of yoga styles. The movement is coordinated with your breath and you move to flow from one pose to another. Jivamukti yoga is similar to this style, but infused with Hindu spiritual rituals. 1

If you want to sweat, Bikram yoga may be for you. This yoga is done in a sauna-like room that is set to 105 degrees.

Cleanse your mind and really relax after a hard day’s work with restorative yoga. The name itself describes this type of yoga.

Yoga can be great for pregnant mothers. Prenatal yoga is adapted specifically for moms-to-be in all trimesters. This style really prepares Mom for labor and delivery by focusing on breathing, pelvic work and bonding with the baby.

My daughter and I signed up to participate in a goat yoga class. My daughter has a fascination with goats, and I love yoga, so I thought we’d combine the two. It was fun! The owner walked around placing a baby goat on the backs of people, upon request. Goat yoga is definitely a trend that is happening all over the United States.

Not into goat yoga? Try out yoga in the company of puppies, the latest trend! This is a great way to do Downward-Facing Dog while getting kisses from man’s best friend, and lowering your stress levels. Also, proceeds often benefit animal rescue charities.

A new magic

I continue to participate in yoga, not only to test my body, but also to test my spirit.  Through yoga, I’ve discovered a new magic within me and I’ve changed my outlook on life. Yoga allows me to bring peace to any chaos from the day.

As you know, PURE is a big proponent of exercise, for both our health and well-being. Yoga is just one way to exercise in a fun way that will help you feel great and stay fit.

1https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/the-11-major-types-of-yoga-explained-simply

Jennifer Evans
PURE Marketing Copywriter