Project Joy // No. 7

There is a light in each and every one of us, we just need to trust our true selves enough to let it shine through—and as this entire world is cloaking in darkness, it’s very important to let our lights shine bright. I think I can help with some.

Hello. I’m Missy. I teach yoga. I love yoga. I believe yoga can heal so many small things, and I believe it’s the small things in life that make the biggest difference. After studying Yoga intensely (practicing for 20 years), I came to realize that yoga is not just Asanas (poses)—in fact, it’s hardly physical at all (only 5%). Yoga is the unity of our mind, body & spirit. Yoga is breath, it’s life. It’s understanding who you are at the core and trusting your soul enough to feel the right reactions of any given situation. Yoga is what we need right now.

Some of us are working “essentially” and braving the risk of this rampant virus. Some of us are working from home. Some of us are furloughed/laid off and stuck unpaid at home worrying about bills. Some of us have turned into substitute teachers and spending our days occupying our children’s minds while trying to save our own. Some of us are by ourselves, longing for company, and some are quarantined with our houses full of occupants we can’t get away from.  

It’s Friday, Week 4 for a couple of these for me. I’m furloughed from my primary job, quarantined, substitute teaching, and have a 4-person house full (husband–42, son–8, and daughter–7).  My husband, thankfully, is able to work from home.

Before all this, my love was leading yoga & barre classes at my little studio space downtown.  Having the studio filled with clients was my therapy, and having a personal practice at home was my sanity. Since we got the stay-at-home order, I was lost. I couldn’t go to my primary job, I couldn’t lead classes, I couldn’t go run errands and I had to entertain/educate my 2 littles 24/7. Like so many of us, my world turned upside down. To fill the gap, I challenged anyone to take my online classes in both yoga & barre. They keep my sanity, keep my clients & friends on track, and keep us all connected in some capacity. They also keep us active and healthier instead of going back to the refrigerator, back to the couch, back to the void. We need to stay connected to stay fastened. I am a Cancer; I need my connections. That’s why I need my yoga to get me through this.

I believe the most important aspect of yoga to focus on right now is breath. How we breathe affects us more than you know. The art of breathing—which we’ll work on—helps our anxiety, stress, gloom, sleep and reactions. Take a moment to notice your breath—do you inhale longer than you exhale or exhale longer than you inhale? Do you breathe into your shoulders, your chest or your belly? Just answering those questions could tell a lot about you.  

We’re going to try a breathing exercise.

I want you to take a comfortable seat on the floor or on a chair if ailments won’t allow the former. You can sit criss–cross applesauce, sit upright in a chair (with your feet hip width apart, knees over ankles), or lay down if the other options don’t work. Sit tall or lay long. Let the legs rest heavy, spine stretched long, shoulders rolled gently back and down, away from the ears. Place one hand on your belly and the other hand over your heart. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breath. As you inhale, breathe in through the nose and feel the breath fill your belly full, pushing your hand out as it fills fully. Now slowly exhale out, using the belly. Flatten that hand & belly button towards your spine and then up as the breath gently comes out through the mouth. Leave your shoulders and most of the chest out of this equation. Feel the hand on your belly move with the breath using this “Belly Breath” technique. As you continue, focus on how long you’re inhaling/exhaling. Let it be an even breath. If you breathe in for the count of 3, breathe out for the count of 3. Do this for a couple minutes and find the rhythm of your breath. 

As you find your breath rhythm, try to slow the exhale down to be twice (or almost twice) as long as the inhale. Do this for another minute to five. You can always rest your hands down to your knees, thighs, or floor (if you’re laying down), palms face up. Once the 1–5 minutes are up, relax the breath and no longer focus on it. Just sit with your eyes closed, try to clear the mind, and find some stillness. Do this as long as you feel. Now open your eyes slowly. How do you feel? Relaxed? Calm? Anything?

I want you to try this breathing technique every day, whether it’s in the mornings to set your mindset for the day ahead, after your child has pushed your buttons for the umpteeth time, or when the reality of this current world creeps in. Anytime is a good time to work on you—to help you. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. Taking a few moments for yourself is not vanity, it is sanity. This is a great technique to help calm those kids down too, btw. You could practice it together; make it like gym class or something. I’m finding the breath is so important when dealing with things as heavy as our current situation.  

There are also many yoga movements that are great for calming the mind and body. I can give you a few of my favorite poses for you to breath through as well.

  1. A forward fold can relax the mind and calm you to the core. My favorite is Uttanasana or Standing Forward Fold. Just stand nice and tall, feet in line underneath the hips (not together), and hands on the hips. Exhale, gently put a slight bend in the knees as you bend at the waist, and gently fold your upper body towards your lower body. Your hands can come to the floor (if you can reach), a block, or just grab opposite elbows and hang the head and arms heavy. Inhale focus on lengthening the spine. Exhale focus on bringing that belly button in and up and relaxing the top of your head heavier towards the floor. Take a few deep breaths here and rest while stretching those hamstrings.
  2. A Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) can enhance strength, stability & concentration. Stand very wide on a mat (a towel is also a great substitute). Start with both feet perfectly parallel with one another, heels behind the toes. Turn the right foot only straight towards the front of the mat. Inhale left both arms straight out the sides in a T-position, turn the head to face the right middle finger. As you exhale, bend that right knee directly over the right ankle (more towards the pinky toe so you can see the big toe). Now just breathe here for a few breaths.  Inhale—straighten the right knee, exhale—release the arms down. Now do the same thing on the left side.
  3. A simple Cat/Cow tilt is a good stress reliever and great for flexibility of the spine and back, easing discomfort. Take your hands and knees to a mat or carpet (wrists under the shoulders and hips over the knees). Inhale and tilt your pelvis back, dropping the belly towards the floor and pulling the crown of your head gently up towards the hips for Cow. Exhale and tuck the tailbone/pelvis under, tucking your chin and squeezing the belly button in towards the curved spine for Cat. Inhale back to Cow, exhale back to Cat.  Do this for 6–10 breaths. Let the breath guide the spine and stretch.

There are so many more that can help us.

Just take a moment right now. All across the Earth, there are millions of us that are in the same place. We’re at home to prevent further risk of spreading this virus. We are all isolated from our norms, whatever that may be. We’re struggling with getting groceries, getting help and getting by day to day. We are all in this together, and we are always stronger together. We’ve got this. Smile for yourself, it’s a beautiful thing.

Peace & love,

Missy Mihelich

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