Do you ever feel that you are fraying at the edges? Do you just want to scream or cry or both because you feel so tired? If your answer is yes to any of these questions – I know where you’re coming from. I have been there too!
I teach students online. Don’t get me wrong - I love my job and my students are truly wonderful human beings. But sometimes anxieties of the dreaded exams get in the way of enjoyment of learning and teaching. Then it can get just that tad wearing and all-consuming for both student and teacher. So at the end of a day of teaching online, I can sometimes feel I’m wearing a jacket - 2 sizes too small for me - and my neck and shoulders feel constricted with my muscles clenched. My hands too can feel tight and tired. In the past, I have tried to remedy these feelings by flopping in front of the telly with a cuppa and chocolate biscuits or, if times felt really too much – a glass of vino. But why was I always surprised that I never felt any better or energised afterwards? Instead, I felt even more tired and totally fed up that I’d been sitting all day, not achieved much and felt exhausted.
All has changed now because I have found this Dru Yoga sequence – ‘Heaven & Earth Mudra Sequence for Total Balance’ with Lalita Doerstel. Wow! Now at the end of a day glued to my laptop, I perform the sequence. I know it might sound a little fanciful, but honestly, my mind and body enter a tranquil sanctuary of peace. Not only does my body feel released and at ease with itself, but my spirits are uplifted and recharged immeasurably. The wonder of this sequence is that, although it is very calm and quiet, it is extremely powerful. I don’t feel that I’m doing very much at all. But the most important aspect is that my mind has permission to take a break from work and life’s regular ups and downs. Instead, it becomes focused on some very simple movements. My worries just float away and are carefully stored ready to be tackled with a renewed vigour some other time.
I am no yoga expert. I’m only at the beginning of my journey of learning more about the power of yoga and how much it can bring to anyone’s and everyone’s life. However, having a scientific background I like to investigate how yoga sequences are thought to work and how they are really so powerful they can make your body relax or become energised or both. I know that sounds counterintuitive but relaxed energy is just bliss.
I know that going to the gym is a great way to stay fit and relieve stress for some folk. It is accepted that physical exercise reduces stress hormones, strengthens our muscles and improves our immune system. But excessive exercise can stress the body which causes it to secrete the stress hormone, cortisol. And if you have chronically high levels of cortisol through too much exercise this can lead to increase weight gain and a variety of health disorders. Mental stress also increases cortisol production and has been linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes in adolescents.1 I know that I should exercise but I much prefer to choose a relaxing way to health and well-being. And did you know that two squares of dark chocolate is good for you? It has been shown that dark chocolate “can have clinically significant effects on .. blood pressure and heart health and that it can even boost blood flow to [the] brain”.2 Yay, this sounds just the ticket for a healthier life – relaxing physical exercise and chocolate!
What particularly intrigued me in my favourite sequence are ‘the mudras’. The mudras are “specialised hand gestures that help to balance the elements in our body as well as super-charge our electro magnetic field.”3 Now I’ll be honest, I didn’t learn this aspect of human anatomy in my Western Human Biology studies and I know some people can be a bit wary of ancient beliefs. But I look at this way, I know that if I practise these mudras whilst coordinating them with my breathing (Pranayama) I feel revived. So something good must be happening. 5000 years ago, it was realised that coordinating breaths with yogic physical movement reduces anxiety. And it is recognised nowadays that yogic breathing can improve respiratory4 cardiovascular5 functioning and general wellbeing6. So with this Dru Yoga sequence, we have physical exercise – reducing stress hormones, strengthening our muscles and improving our immune system - together with the mudras and pranayama which is also improving our well-being. So what’s not to like?
Most importantly, the wonder of online lessons is that you can follow them in the privacy of your own home. I always enjoyed attending yoga classes outside of my home, but I often felt that all the lovely benefits of relaxation at the end of the class was undone for me because I had to get in my car to drive home with all its stresses and strains. And all I wanted to do was to sit quietly and soak up those joyous feelings of letting go. When you’re at home no one can see you if you need a breather, have a wardrobe malfunction or a wobble. You can just pause the lesson without feeling embarrassed in front of anyone else.
Why not give my favourite sequence a go! Even if you just start doing the warm up exercises on their own. You’ll be surprised how beneficial they are to just giving you a little boost of relaxation – if that isn’t a contradiction in terms. Sometimes I have time for them between timetabled online lessons. They act as an ‘amuse-bouche’ and then I’m ready for my main course – the Heaven & Earth Mudra Sequence – to bring about a harmonious end of the working day with my two squares of dark chocolate, of course!
1 http://www.uhbristol.nhs.uk/media/1934492/physical_activity__perceived_s... (uhbristol.nhs.uk)
2 BBC Radio 4 - Just One Thing - with Michael Mosley - Here’s Just One Thing to help improve your health and wellbeing
3 Heaven & Earth Mudra Sequence for Total Balance | DruYoga.com
4 P. Shyam karthik,M. Chandrasekhar, Kondam Ambareesha,and C. Nikhil, Effect of Pranayama and Suryanamaskar on Pulmonary Functions in Medical Students J Clin Diagn Res. 2014 Dec; 8(12): BC04–BC06.
Published online 2014 Dec 5. doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2014/10281.5344
5 NK Subbalakshmi, SK Saxena, Urmimala, JA Urban. Immediate effect of nadi -shodhana pranayama on some selected parameters of cardiovascular, pulmo-nary and higher functions of brain. Thai Journal of Physiological Sciences. 2005;18(2):10–16. [Google Scholar]
6 5 Breathing Techniques to Help Reduce Stress - Dr Rangan Chatterjee (drchatterjee.com)
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