One word, one date. Brexit, 24 June 2016. And a whole world of fear, anger, frustration, and incomprehension opens (…insert your feelings here!).
I’m still feeling shock, anger and fear from the UK EU Referendum result and the follow-on effects of the disarray at Westminster – the back-biting, back-stabbing and vacuum of power.
And I can tangibly sense the disbelief, worry, confusion, rage and fear that has spread through the UK (and beyond).
We’re living in uncertain times – wherever you are in the world.
An uncertain place
And uncertainty is a very difficult place to live in.
A well-known experiment in the 1960s showed that participants would prefer to definitely get an electric shock now than potentially get one later on. That seems bizarre. But it speaks to the fact that human beings would rather experience the certainty of pain now than be left wondering when it’s going to come along and be inflicted on us.
This uncertainly quickly turns to fear and anxiety. We may lash out at others, hoping to pin the blame on how we’re feeling elsewhere. We may go into denial – pretending the problems and feelings aren’t there. We may feel overwhelmed by all of the worst case scenarios which our imagination plots out in all-too-vivid details (e.g. Europe is going to break up and we’ll end up with world war three!!! Yes, I put my hand up to that one).
These are uncertain and difficult times. Whether you feel it now or not, we ALL experience such times in our lives when we feel lost and confused and don’t know what to do to get through it.
We need to find a way through these times. Pushing such feelings away and down does not help – it creates a dam of energy which WILL rush up and explode in your face at some point!
Navigating a path through
Yoga can hold us as we navigate a path through the difficult times.
But I’ll be honest, I struggled with my yoga practice over the weekend of the referendum result. I wanted to curl up in a ball and whimper a lot of the time because of the pain and anger and confusion that seems to be engulfing this country – I’m highly sensitive, I can’t help but feel it (for the first time in a long time last weekend I’ve almost wished I wasn’t empathic and could just switch off and pretend everything is fine!).
At first I wanted to breathe through it and let it go and embrace the love and light.
Then this didn’t feel right. It felt more authentic to accept and honour and be with these feelings of profound discomfort and, here comes my favourite word, discombobulation.
Because practising self-acceptance and self love and mindfulness means letting in and being with feelings and hurt.
So for me, this past week this has involved gentle movement, resting and breathing and trying to keep my heart open with releasing chest opening practices.
Yoga practices which have helped me
Let me share with you some simple yoga practices for difficult and uncertain times – with the emphasis on being kind and gentle and compassionate to the person who matters most in the world: YOU!
Open the Heart
Heart Expansion Breath invites us to remain open.
Stand in Mountain Pose. Let your knees soften. Let your shoulders relax. Feel your jaw releasing and let your eyes soften into your head. Breathe. Feel your spine lengthen and expand as you inhale, and exhale to allow your body to relax around the support of your spine.
- Bring your hands in front of your lower abdomen, right hand in front of left, palms facing in towards your body.
- Inhale and lift your hands up the mid-line of your body in front of you to over head.
- Exhale turn your palms away.
- And let your arms and hands float out to the sides and down.
- Bring left hand in front of right at the lower abdomen and repeat as above.
With each movement invite a sense of space around you.
Expand your heart. Open, soften. Breathe.
Let go of fear
Peace Posture helps us to release fear and tension.
- Stand in Mountain Pose.
- Begin to bend forward from your hips, keeping a straight back and straight legs.
- Place your hands on your thighs and bend until your back is parallel to the floor. Pause for a few breaths
- Now bend your knees slightly and slowly lower your hands down over your knees, then shins until you are bending forward with your fingers at your feet.
- Allow your head and neck to relax.
- Allow the muscles of your back and shoulders to relax.
- VISUALISATION: imagine a stream of light or energy flowing from the base of your spine, down your back and over the back your head down into the ground. Feel any physical tensions draining away; imagine any anxieties or stresses and falling away from you – leaving your body and mind.
- To come out, bend your knees a little more, and slowly uncurl to upright – with your head coming up last.
- Bring your arms up the mid-line of your body and stretch your arms up overhead.
- To finish, allow your arms to float back down to the sides of your body.
Withdraw from the world
Crocodile Pose let’s us rest on the earth and withdraw our senses and thoughts from the outside world.
When the feelings are just too much and overwhelm is sweeping over you, lie down on your front, take your feet wide apart and let your heels turn in towards each other. Rest your forehead on the backs of your hands.
Withdraw your senses. Go inwards to a safe place. Let the earth support you.
Let whatever thoughts and feelings are present BE. Don’t struggle with them, don’t fight them, don’t push them away. Let them be. And breathe and rest.
Tune into your breath
Practise mindful breathing – tuning into the physical sensations of your breath brings you out of your thoughts and into your body. It directly acts on the nervous system to calm body and mind.
(Sit or lie down for this one.)
- With your left palm on your belly, place your right hand:
- Beneath your left collar bone – keep it here and feel the breath
- Then place your hand into left armpit – keep it here and feel the breath
- Then right palm on belly and left hand:
- Beneath right collar bone …
- Then right arm pit … feel the breath.
- Now make soft fists and place them just below the breastbone… breathe
- Now place your hands either side of your rib cage … breathe
- Place your hands on your belly… breathe, feel the rise and fall
- Now experience and feel your breathing in your whole body.
Meditate on kindness
Take a few breaths feeling the cool in-breath at your nostrils and the warmer out-breath. Then ground – feel the support of the earth supporting you.
Now let your awareness rest at the centre of your chest and silently or quietly repeat these words over and over – like you mean it (and keep going even if your mind tells you that you don’t mean it!):
- May I be safe and protected
- May I be peaceful
- May I live with ease and with kindness
And then expand that intention to send loving kind compassion out into the world:
- May all beings be safe and protected
- May all beings be peaceful
- May all beings live with ease and with kindness
And then rest for a few minutes with your awareness at the centre of your chest – your heart space – and let it be filled with compassion.
You may feel it as warmth, or see it as light.
Let compassion fill your heart.
And know that unless we allow compassion into our hearts and show it towards ourselves we will not be able to truly show it to others.
But when our hearts ARE full of compassion and kindness towards ourselves we cannot help but feel empathy and compassion for all other beings.
When you’re experiencing difficult times, try one or all of these practices.
Be kind to yourself. Gently release, breathe, rest. Let the feelings be. Let them through. And only when YOU feel ready, let them go.
Calming yoga in Southampton/Eastleigh: come to a weekly class for regular calming, mindful movement and relaxation in a supportive atmosphere. I teach several classes a week and monthly classes and workshops – check out my yoga class timetable and workshops schedule to find out more and make a booking enquiry.
If you would like regular tips, insights and wisdom delivered to your inbox, and to receive a 17-minute guided relaxation, then please leave your name and email address.