‘Just relax’ they say… Oh how I hate this phrase! As if relaxing, softening, stopping all the doing and the thinking, was just so EASY to do, whatever your circumstances.
It’s definitely not that you don’t want to. But the moment you lie or sit down, or just stand still, your body won’t surrender. All you can feel is that tension in your shoulders or that niggle in your lower back.
The moment you pause and stop, your mind goes into overdrive. The shopping list, what the hell to make for dinner. All the things that needs to get done, all the things that surely, you should be doing right now. Your work. Your baby. Of course, your baby. Or the unescapable dream of a baby.
And here comes the guilt, the anxiety (or both). All sorts of buried feelings that you don’t really want to see.
If there’s one thing I know, from my own experience and that of working with many women, it is that relaxing isn’t always easy. Especially when we’re caught in the whirlwind of busy life, stress hormones coursing through our veins 24/7 (whether we realise it or not), and battling with the challenges of our motherhood journey, whatever stage we’re at.
Yet being able to relax is a key skill, a vital skill, to support our health and our physical and mental well-being in this mad non-stop world we live in.
So here I want to share with you SIMPLE and POWERFUL techniques and mind shifts that can help you on this path to more relaxation. Simple and powerful techniques that I’ve seen work so well again and again with all the women I work with, which will help you feel more relaxed, right now, wherever you are, even if all the time you have is 1 minute.
How to relax
1 – Relax your jaw.
I love this. There is pure magic in our bodies, as in when we relax our jaw and throat, we relax our whole body. Isn’t it amazing? So unclench your teeth, take a little wobble of your jaw, or better still, take a yawn. Don’t need a one right now? Fake a big one, and a real one will most probably come! And enjoy that wave of relaxation rippling through your body.
2 – Let your belly out
As you’re reading this, I’m willing to bet that you are holding your belly in to some degree or other (unless you are pregnant!). Whether it is in a conscious effort to make your tummy flatter, because this is the way you were told to hold yourself, or whether you no longer realise you constantly engage your deep core (something very common in fitness instructors and yogis like myself!), holding your belly in creates unnecessary tension in your body, and prevents you from breathing fully (see point 5 below!). Incidentally, it’s also not helpful in helping your abdominal muscles function properly, but that’s the topic of another blog post!
So let out any belly that you’re holding in. And when you feel you’ve let it out, release it some more. Because chances are you are still holding some tension there. And then remind yourself to do just that throughout the day, because old (especially unconscious) habits die hard. I know it from first-hand experience!
3 – Give yourself permission.
Now that’s the biggie. Let me say it loud and clear, you are absolutely ALLOWED to relax. Right now. Anytime. The world won’t collapse if you do. Actually, it’s more likely to collapse if you don’t. Because as the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Relaxing, taking care of yourself isn’t selfish and most things can wait 1, 5, or 20 more minutes to get done. You are allowed.
4 – Know that it is safe.
Sometimes we find it hard to relax because we are scared. Scared to let go. Because we do not know what might happen, what thoughts and emotions might surface if we stop keeping busy. But letting these thoughts and emotions rise to the surface is actually a good thing. It’s a way to clear them, making them less powerful and often much less scary in the process. Better still, by letting go, you can actually often find resolution, find answers – your instinctive answers – that you wouldn’t have been able to find with rational thinking.
5 – Breathe
The breath is another magical thing. We breathe day in, day out and pay so little attention to it. Yet the way we breathe deeply affects the way we feel. Full, conscious breathing is one of the most powerful (and simple) gateways to a more relaxed state. Exhaling, in particular, is an antidote to pain and tension, and so lengthening your exhalations will have an immediate calming, relaxing effect on your body and mind. There are many techniques that do just that (you can find many tutorials on my Instagram page) but my favourite is the Golden Thread breath. For me it’s the queen of all calming breaths, that can help you relax through the toughest of situations (including labour, medical interventions, or through-the-roof toddler tantrums!!!). To give it a go, inhale normally through the nose then simply let your outbreath escape through the smallest gap you can make between your lips, without force. Imagine this outbreath is a long thread of gold, spooling away towards the horizon, taking away tension and worry. Repeat as many times as feels good! This is also brilliant if you struggle to find sleep or suffer from insomnia.
I hope you found these pointers helpful and would love to know how you got on.
If relaxing is something you struggle with, whether you are struggling with fertility issues, anxious about your pregnancy or impending birth, or battling with the exhaustion and overwhelm of early motherhood, specialist nourishing yoga can help you.
If you would like to know more or discuss your particular situation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Yoga teacher, Richmond
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