Living in today’s world can feel very overwhelming with our daily to-do list that never seems to end. You cross one thing off only to add two more tasks to complete. As a single working mother, I know how hard it can be to take a breath between all the busyness.
“Self-care” is a popular buzzword on social media right now and it’s great that we (women) are having more conversations about taking care of ourselves. I think that what self-care looks like varies, and that there is no right or wrong way to nourish your mind, body, and spirit.
Only you can know what works for you so that you can feel joy, experience self-preservation, and do so in alignment with your truth.
When I became a single working mother, my schedule quickly filled up — so much that I never had the time to do anything other than care for my son, get him to school, clean, run errands, work, schedule clients, email clients, commute, study for my continued-ed exams, pay bills, find a place to live, etc.
There was always something or someone needing my attention — every single waking moment. This left me feeling tired, stressed, and depleted of energy. I didn’t know how much I had left in me before a breakdown.
I just kept going until one day, while making my son’s bed, I threw out my back. I could not walk for two full days. I had to cancel my client sessions, ask for help with my son and with chores around the house. My body was telling me to hit the pause button and focus on taking care of my needs.
And over the course of those two days that I spent on my back, I realized that slowing down was exactly the self-care that I needed and that it was OK to ask for support.
Now that my back is better and that I am back up on my feet, I incorporate a few restorative exercises as a form of self-care and to slow down and de-stress on days when I feel completely overwhelmed, tired, or stressed.
Today I want to share six exercises that might be helpful for you too. These restorative exercises can help release tension in your body, regulate your central nervous system, improve sleep quality and movement quality, increase blood flow, reduce back pain, and calm the mind.
Furthermore, these exercises can help you shift from the sympathetic nervous system, which activates the fight or flight response, to the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you to relax, slows down the heart rate, and releases tension in the sphincter muscles of the gastrointestinal tract, which can in turn aid in digestion.
Breathing diaphragmatically will help you to de-stress, support body alignment, and movement quality. As you continue to practice the rest of the restorative exercises in this program, I invite you to take a moment to check in with your breath.
This position will help you to release tension in the psoas muscle which commonly becomes short and tight from sitting and driving. Spend at least 5 minutes here to reap the benefits of this restorative exercise.
This will encourage external rotation in the shoulder, stretch the pectoral muscle and anterior deltoid muscle.
To go deeper, you can take your hands around one thigh and pull the knee towards your chest while you bring the opposite foot off the floor and extend the knee. Keep your knee straight and your heel off the ground. Hold for about 1 minute and then switch legs.
To go further, you can wrap a yoga strap around your ankle and drape it over the same side shoulder. Hold the strap with both hands and bend the knee. Use the upper body to pull the leg up and go as far as you can while keeping the pubic bone on the floor and your hips square to the floor.
Hold for 1 minute and then switch sides. (If you do not have a yoga strap you can reach back and hold the outside of your ankle with your hand.)
If this bothers your knees you can place a small rolled up towel underneath of your knees to help keep the knee joint from going into complete flexion. You might also want to try stretching your calves, sometimes tight calf muscles can make this pose uncomfortable.
I like to do these restorative exercises in the evening while watching a show with my son but you can do them whenever you want. I recommend at least 1 minute for each exercise to truly benefit from the release in the muscles. The goal is to relax and to allow gravity to help release tension in your body.
It might not look like big movements but there is a lot of movement happening in your body with each of these restorative exercises.
Take deep breaths and enjoy a good book or a show while you move your body. Yes, even this is movement. Enjoy the sweetness in slowing down.
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