This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and with 74% of people in the UK stating that they’ve struggled with stress or coping in the last year, we asked Work Well Being’s Ruby Reed to share her tips for simple ways to reduce your anxiety.
Ruby leads yoga workshops in May and June at The Space | 3FA alongside our Midweek Meditations so book your classes for free now. Also don't miss our talk with self-care workshop with Suzy Reading this week.
“Yoga is an amazing tool that empowers us to create positive changes in our lives by replacing unconscious patterns with conscious ones that nourish our relationships with ourselves, one another and the world around us. Yoga is a process of bringing awareness to everything about how we live our lives – whether through the postures, meditation and breathing we practise in a yoga class, or by turning our attention to our thought patterns, or the food we eat and our daily lifestyles with Ayurveda.
The intensity of the urban environment alongside the pressures of work, deadlines, social and family commitments, are always pulling us out of kilter. It’s easy to become overwhelmed given how much is expected of us — and how much we expect from ourselves too! Yoga is the ultimate tool to bring us back into balance and alignment, reduce stress, and enable us to come back at things refreshed so we can rebuild in a positive direction.
Try these 3 great yoga poses
- Legs up the wall, hips close to the wall, eyes closed, arms wide.
- Lying with a long bolster or row of stacked pillows beneath your spine with your hips on the floor, soles of the feet touching with knees wide, arms wide.
- Savasana with deep breathing, eyes closed.
The breath affects your respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, gastronintestinal, muscular and psychic systems, and also has a general effect on your sleep, memory, energy and concentration. Everything you do, the pace you keep, your health, well-being, and choices you make are influenced by the rhythmic metronome of your breath.
The process of breathing lies at the centre of every action and reaction we make or have, and so by returning to it we go to the core of the stress response. By refining and improving the quality of our breathing we can feel its positive impact on all aspects of our being.
So, whether you are sitting or standing, have both feet grounded on the floor and align and lengthen your spine so the sides of the body is long, the heart centre is open and the shoulders are broad. Close your eyes and feel the presence of the breath inside of you. Notice your breathing pattern without trying to alter it in any way. Then slowly begin to rest your attention on your exhalation and let your awareness travel down the length of the exhalation. See if you can lengthen the exhale breath to be very deep and complete. Do this for a few breaths, and enjoy the quiet sensation of the breath as it effortlessly leaves the body.
Now bring your focus to the momentary pause that follows the end of the exhalation, and notice the stillness, steadiness and emptiness that resides in this place, like a well from where the inhalation arises, slow, steady and consistent. Continue breathing in this way for at least 10 breaths. Know that at any time when you feel tired, stressed or overwhelmed, you can come back to the breath for rest and replenishment simply by lengthening the breath and entering the pause at the end of the exhalation.
2. Move and stretch
High levels of stress are often accompanied by fear, overwhelm, stagnancy and depression, and movement is one of the best ways to counteract all of this. When we move the pressure on the cardiovascular system increases our heart rate, causing us to breath deeper and more frequently, which sends fresh oxygenated blood around our system. It opens and strengthens our bodies and increases our flexibility.
Importantly, movement brings our awareness away from the intellect and brings it back into the body — something we need to do a lot when we are struggling with stress. If you have a busy day and can’t squeeze in an exercise class, try running home from work (or getting off the train a few stops earlier if it’s too far), run around the block or up and down the stairs a few times. Whatever it is that you choose to do, focus your mind completely on what it is that you are doing, so that you can return to your desk refreshed.
And stretch! Stretch all your muscles and every part of your body that you can: your neck, shoulders, upper, mid and lower torso, your arms, hips, upper and lower legs, even your hands and feet. Let all the muscles lengthen and open. Focus the mind on each of the places you are stretching at that moment.
3. Go outside and connect to nature
We can apply the tools of awareness we cultivate in the yoga class to much more too. How many times have we been returned to a fuller sense of ourselves by taking a short walk in the woods? How often do we return replenished by new perspectives after a while gazing across water? So try going outside and tuning in to your senses. If you can’t make it to a green space, try opening a window in the office and look out of it at the sky or trees along the street, but even looking at a potted plant will do.
Wherever you are, feel your feet grounded into the floor, feel the air on your skin, the temperature; tune what it is you are seeing, are there any birds or insects, what are the colours? Is there movement through the clouds or through the trees? Imagine your eyes are like an owl’s, you can see a full 180 degrees, and just take everything in; your ears are like a deer’s, hearing everything, even the sounds far away in the distance; your smell is like a fox's, receptive and picking everything up. See if you can spend at least 5 or 10 minutes like that. It’s hard to think about anything else and you are guaranteed to feel instantly relieved from the pressures of the world.
Try building on this practice everyday. It’s particularly effective when you use the same spot each time, and you get to know it, and notice the difference as the space is affected by the seasons, the time of day, the weather, or even your mood.”
Join our weekly Vinyasa Flow Yoga classes at The Space | 3FA, run by our experienced yoga teachers. Please note these yoga classes are open to people who work at Broadgate only. Each class will begin at 7.30am and last for 1 hour.
Main photo by Victor Garcia; The Space | 3FA photos by Brendan Bell