Life is chaotic right now. Nobody needs to tell you that. There is so much going on—the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic fallout that will only be growing in the coming days and weeks, the sheer amount of uncertainty about parts of our lives that used to be routine—that’s out of our control. But if we spend all of our time focusing on what we can’t control, we can end up feeling powerless and paralyzed. 

This is both a more difficult way to live and a state that is more likely to make you vulnerable to illness, since stress, anxiety, and the cortisol that is released in these states has never been known to do the immune system any favors. 

However, we have a choice to spend at least some time each day focusing on what is within our locus of control. Below are some simple and pragmatic yoga postures to balance the nervous system and provide some grounding—something we could all use. You might choose to do them all together in a sequence or mix and match. They’re all intended to help your mind, body, and nervous system relax, which helps strengthen your immune system. 

Deep belly breathing 

There’s good reason to strengthen your lungs now, and any time. When we breathe deeply we flood the body with oxygen and balance the nervous system. 

Sit or lie down comfortably, close your eyes, and place a hand on your belly and one on your heart. These two points of contact let your nervous system know you are safe. In three parts, feel the breath flow in starting with the nose, moving through the throat, and filling up the belly. Suspend the breath for a pause when you are full, then exhale slowly from the belly, to the throat, and out the nose. Repeat this for several cycles until you feel at home in your body. 

Child’s pose

This pose is ideal for calming your nervous system, going into yourself, and feeling safe in a confined space. The contact with the floor or the earth is immensely grounding. 

Start on hands and knees, bring the toes together, and sit the hips back onto the heels. Extend the arms and rest the forehead on the ground. Stay for 2–3 minutes, feel the breath in the lower back, and hear it in your ears, long, slow, deep breaths, calming you like the ocean. 

Cat and Cow 

This simple exercise moves stress out of the body and gets oxygen flowing to the vital organs. Do this throughout the day as a way to keep the body active, even if you’re staying home. Also, stay home. Please, please, please stay home. 

Come to hands and knees, and arch and round the spine back and forth. You can alway sway and circle the hips. Set a timer for 3–5 minutes, and keep moving, breathing fully and deeply. 

Image: Brittany Kraft 

Standing forward fold 

This pose releases tension held in the spine, hips, neck, and head. Folds are ideal for going within and releasing held tension, which can be essential when we’re overwhelmed. 

Stand with your feet flat on the floor and spread the width of your hips (quick way to measure is with two fists between your arches). Fold from the hip crease, and bend the knees so the belly and the thighs make contact. Keep the knees soft, and breathe into the belly as you open up the backs of the legs. Let the head and spine relax. 

Legs up the wall

This is my go-to pose to de-stress at the end of a tough day. It lowers blood pressure and stress, and it also supports the immune system. 

Sit next to a wall with your hips against it. Begin to lie back and extend the legs up the wall. You may also choose to place a blanket or pillow under the hips or the head. You can stay in this up to 20 minutes with the eyes closed as you relax. 

Brittany Kraft is currently offering classes online at Four Dragons right now. Classes are only $10, and you can join live or sign up, and they will send you the recording after class. You can also utilize some free resources for your yoga practice at brittanyalicekraft.com

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