Keep your body moving when you are stuck at home
These simple and easy sun salutations will stimulate your organs and calm your mind
Being stuck at home during this pandemic will be worse for people who do not take regular exercise, both from an emotional and a physical level. Regular walkers, runners and cyclists can still get out for a short workout, but what if you are not one of those people who take part in these activities or need something to do on the days your are not aerobically exercising? You may just be scared to go out to exercise at the moment and that is fine too. You might not be the type of person to feel up to a workout on-line OR with Jo Wicks.
But healthy habits can be more important than ever now to keep anxiety and worry controlled and to look after our bodies. There is growing evidence that cancer survivors who have healthy habits have better quality of life and possibly better treatment outcomes, so why not practice them now when you are in a moderate state of good health?
Practicing yoga, or sun salutations or ANY type of stretching is a natural thing to do. Look at your animals when they get up from sleep. They stretch all the way from their head to feet and may even yawn or sigh. We have lost the ability to naturally stretch and breathe fully. We live in a world of either sitting for too long, repetitive postures over tablets or phones, we do not look up enough and we spend most of our time in shallow breathing. Shallow breathing increases stress, brings minimal breath and oxygen into our lungs and puts stress on the muscles of the ribs. I see this all the time with my clients.
So, here is my gentle workout if you find yourself in this category. These are so simple anybody can do them, including the kids.
Sun Salutations are like a gentle round of yoga, taken from Hatha yoga AND you do not need to have done yoga before to try these. It is a sequence of just 12 moves and is a good workout for your heart, believe it or not. The postures I have outlined below help stretch your muscles, move the blood and relax you. The lymphatic system, which will be getting a bit clogged up with more sitting and eating, moves to clean out toxins via the bloodstream.
Although it is normally suggested you do these when the sun comes up, that is not always possible, so I would say just try these when you do wake, up as they will benefit you just as much. There is a link to download these at the bottom of the page.
Benefits of sun salutations/asanas
One book which talks about sun salutations in modern times states the benefits for health, efficiency and longevity, but I too swear by them since being introduced to them 3 years ago by my ayurveda teacher.
- Stretches out stiff hips and legs as it gets you to recline, stand and twist
- Helps improve the heart, liver and chest
- Moves lymph around the body to help the detoxification process
- By moving the lymphatic system you can help reduce water caused by the kapha dosha. One reason which I see in my clients for water retention in the body is the sluggishness of the kapha dosha
- Improves breathing and awareness of the breath
- Helps with constipation and strengthens the digestive tract. The movements stimulate the bowel and encourages an appetite
- Calms AND invigorates the nervous system (you can only feel good afterwards!)
- Warms you up by improving circulation – great for Vata cold body types but good for hot pitta types if done in the cool mornings
- Can change your mood from negative to positive by encouraging you to be present
- Helps with sadness as it changes your posture in a particular way to open up energy channels (chakras)
- Improves the lung capacity as you breath naturally to help each movement
- Stretches the throat and neck into positions you may not otherwise do, so gives breath to the thyroid gland, throat and lungs
- It can strengthen your back neck, shoulders and arms. By strengthening your back, you assist your kidneys as these two are closely linked
- They can help to move fat from around the abdomen, hips and thighs
- Stretches out the vertebrae of the spine. Who knows, you may end up a few cms taller…..
- It will set you up for the day as it is a form of exercise
- YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR HOUSE TO DO THESE
Tips for those of you new to this
- Firstly, you do NOT need to own a yoga mat or have all the clothing to do this. Use a towel and put on a comfy tee-shirt!
- If you do happen to have a mat or yoga kit, then get ready as you would with a class to get you into the ‘zone’.
- DO try to find a space where you will not be disturbed. Better still, get your kids to join in. Children love yoga and do some of the poses naturally without even realising it as they are not tuned into how sore their knees or joints might be. They find it fun!
- If you want to have some music as background noise (particularly if you are the anxious vata type), then play some relaxing spa music from your phone, but make sure your phone is on flight mode so you are not distracted by social media or put on high alert if someone contacts you. (I will give you some apps to download in my meditation blog)
- Start with the standing position and just take 4 breathes in and out with your hands joined and held to your forehead. Take a gentle bow of your head or body. This is the namaste greeting and goodbye and means I bow to you. You may have a higher power, whether that is god or nature but doing this sets your intention and will instantly help you become aware of self. Simple
- Let it all hang out. Sweats and lose pants are popular indoor wear at the moment. Do not hold in your stomach or other parts you might be self-conscious about. Just go with the flow of these movements.
- Do not put too much emphasis on the exhale or inhale listed in the chart. Just start.
- If you do want to follow the breathing, do the exercise step by step and slowly as you need to refer to the sheet.
- Start with just 2 or 3 rounds a day until you are comfortable. Then build up to 5 or 8 a day. Some people do 20 of these. If you enjoy it enough you may end up doing 20 rounds and by then it might be time for you to consider joining a yoga class. Increasing the amount of ’rounds’ you do should help you work the heart and you will notice your breathing gets a little harder. Otherwise, just stick to at least 3 rounds and hold the poses longer.
- Be aware of your breath. This brings you into the present moment and distracts your thoughts from other things (and we are all very distracted with negative thoughts at the moment)
- If you have back problems or tight hamstrings, do not force any moves. Just bend to a comfortable level for YOU, allowing blood to go to the neck and head. However, the more you do these, the more you will see that your spine can stretch further each time. When I first started, my hands would barely go to my shins. Now I can put both hands flat on the ground comfortably.
- If you are “hypermobile” you will be able to move into these positions easily. But please note that according to ayurveda, hypermobility in the muscles stems from hypermobility of the mind, so you may need to address the mind first (a Vata imbalance).
- You may eventually build up a sweat and if you do get that far, remember that you will help your spleen and blood by sweating out toxins and impurities. If your sweat usually smells, this can be a sign of aggravated pitta dosha and an imbalance in the body. So a gentle sweat will be good for you, but do NOT get too hot as you may become irritable.
- This is just a practice
- You are not doing
- You are not judging yourself
- You are not competing
- You are just being
- Give yourself some wellness at this time
- There is no right or wrong way
- Just try
Complementing the salutations
In ayurveda, a sattvic diet (balancing food of quality and goodness, versus those that cause inflammation or destruction to our cells) will complement how good you can feel. This will include you eating seasonally, eating as many vegetables in season as you can get, plus fruits (yes stop listening to those that say fruit has too much sugar). If you get a balanced diet, fruit can be a great change of taste, hydration and snack (unless you have diagnosed sugar problems).
Eat some dairy, if the animal is fed and milked in the right conditions (ayurveda has simple tools for sattvic food for vegetarians and vegans too). Nuts, seeds, oils, legumes and whole grains all contribute to a sattvic body and mind. Your body constitution and dosha, will decide when to eat these and how much, but your Ayurveda Consultant will be able to inform and monitor you.
Self massage (abhyanga) to help areas that are more restricted or tight is the next step to a more balanced morning. Work from the feet upwards.
More on foods later but around 70% of the food we eat is toxic and contributes greatly to inflammation, skin conditions, joint issues and many chronic conditions that are costing the NHS millions. I suspect that we are also going to see a lot of weight gain during this pandemic as people over-eat and rely on food for emotions. As we cannot get everything in season right now, just focus on nutritious foods and eat light meals. Plus, try to ONLY eat when you are actually hungry and not the 3 meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Have your main meal during the day and a lighter tea/supper.
Good luck. Try something new and see how you feel. Your brain and body will reward you for it
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Book “Surya Namaskar: For Health, Efficiency & Longevity” by Bhavarav Shrinivasrav
Helping during the coronvirus. C A Southwell