November 15, 2014

The 5 Ways I Learned to Ease My Stress, Calm My Mind & Energize My Body.



When My Jaw Locked Close, I Knew It Was Time for Change.

Have you ever been hit by that wave of exhaustion that leaves you feeling empty and cranky right around 3 p.m?

If you’re anything like me, your life is incredibly full, and you can totally relate to this exhaustion and overwhelm…and stress.

Sometimes, life can feel like a race from sunrise until late into the night.

There’s just so damn much to do in this life, it can be easy to succumb to the pressure and get overwhelmed by stress.

I know because it’s happened to me. (And far too often than I care to admit.)

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a get shit done kinda girl.

Always the overachiever, I put pressure on myself to be the very best…which sadly meant often sacrificing my own well-being in the name of well-doing.

When my body started succumbing to stress in my teens, I began suffering from the dis-ease of chronic headaches and TMJ (serious jaw tension…so severe at times that I couldn’t even open my mouth because my jaw was locked from so much stress!).

Thankfully, I was unwilling to accept my doc’s advice to just continue taking pain relievers.

I knew I wanted to find another way to feel better. To ease my stress. To calm my mind. To energize my body.

And that’s how I landed myself on a yoga mat for the first time.

What a miracle.

Truly, I would be a completely different woman than I am today without my practice.

It’s been nearly 20 years now that I’ve practiced this discipline of bliss, of self awareness, and of learning to love myself.

Turns out that listening to and nurturing my body had a ripple effect.

Now, I have friends ask me, “Were you always this calm?”

And I laugh to myself, knowing there was a time when stress would so easily get the better of me.

Now I know how to shift from stressed and exhausted to energized and at ease in no time.

Learning how to relax and choose more ease has changed everything for me.

And I am so grateful for these five easy and effective practices that help me feel more vibrant and alive…whether I’ve only got one minute or 30, I choose what feels best in the now.

1. Gift myself a 30 minute power nap

If I’m feeling especially exhausted (or cranky!), I’ll set my timer with a gentle sound to awaken me, grab an eye pillow, and maybe some ear plugs, and get comfy on my couch or bed.

I do my best to really focus on my breath to help me relax and consciously allow ease to wash over me body.

I also set my intention that I’ll feel energized when I rise again.

Then, I just enjoy the stillness, soak up the relaxation, feel the ease.

And remember to let go of any guilt about giving myself this gift.

I remind myself that this loving care is a gift to me and to everyone around me.

So I surrender and give myself permission to enjoy nurturing me.

2. Recline in Savasana for 20 minutes

First, I recline on a yoga mat, the floor, or maybe even a soft patch of grass at the park. Whatever suits me in the moment is just right.

Next, I allow my eyes to close softly and let my breath feel natural.

I allow my legs to relax so they’re wider than my hips and rest my arms by my sides with palms turned up.

An alternative hand placement is bringing one hand to my heart and one to my belly…to really tune in to the flow of my breath and the beat of my heart.

Now, all I need to do is rest.

Release thoughts.
Soothe my body.
Reemerge feeling light and energized.

20 minutes of deeply breathing in Savasana (aka corpse pose) can absolutely transform the state of my mind and body.

3. Meditate for 10 minutes

I trust that there is no right or wrong way to meditate.

The point is to align with my higher consciousness, my deeper wisdom, my pure love.

I let myself experiment with what feels right.

Next, I choose my seat, whether lying on my bed, standing in the middle of a forest, walking along the beach…it’s all good.

I allow my eyes to gently close as I become aware of the breath.

Doing my best to stay focused on the present moment, acknowledging but not engaging in my thoughts.

I give my focus to the present.

Sometimes, I’ll add a simple mantra to the inhalation and exhalation to help maintain focus.

One beautiful mantra is So Hum, meaning “I am that.”

This expression invites the busy mind to calm and focus on the essence of being rather than doing.

Alternatively, I may want to add a visualization, like imagining any thoughts transforming into leaves that fall upon a stream and float away.

Whatever I choose, it’s just practice.

I trust that no matter what, my meditation is for my good.

I simply allow my meditation to be a means to tune in, to free my mind of the busyness of thought, and to align with my inner wisdom.

The more I meditate, the more ease and energy I feel.

It’s totally worth it.

4. Legs up the wall for five minutes

Even if my life is uber-full, I can still fit this into my schedule!

To begin, I set a timer with a gentle ring to remind me when five minutes has passed.

Then, I find a wall with open space on the floor.

I sit down with one hip against the wall.

As I recline onto my back, I lift my legs so they are vertical.

(Another option is to recline and rest your legs on a chair or couch with knees bent at a 90 degree angle…I’ll do whichever version feels best for my body in the present.)

I relax my hands by my side or on my heart and belly.

Now, I close my eyes and breathe deeply and slowly.

My body and mind so appreciate these few minutes to rest and rejuvenate myself to move forward through my day with more grace and energy.

And, I notice how much more peace I create in my relationships when I’ve taken time to care for me.

5. Get cozy in child’s pose for one minute

If I’m feeling exhausted and only have a moment, then I’ll find a soft spot on the floor, come to my hands and knees, and push my booty back to my heels.

Here, I rest my body on my thighs and relax my head to the Earth.

There are countless variations to this ancient posture, so I’ll do whatever feels right for my body in the moment.

I especially like bringing my knees wide with my big toes touching and letting my body ease between my legs as I reach my hands overhead on the floor and relax my forehead to the Earth.

After I’ve given myself about 10 deep breaths, slowly I’ll lift my body and carry on with my day feeling more connected, relaxed and at ease.

Life is precious. We deserve to enjoy it.

Giving myself the gift of relaxation invites so much more ease, energy, and joy into my relationships and my life.

Here’s hoping these practices will inspire you, too!



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Author: Denise Dare

Editor: Travis May

Photo: marie-aschehoug-clauteaux at Flickr 

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