May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and although we shine a light on the topic this month in particular, ZENworks Yoga champions for mental wellness through the practices of mindfulness and yoga all year long.
We know that childhood trauma and toxic stress can adversely effect mental health and wellness, and even physical health, across the life span.
(https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/fastfact.html) When we have experiences that overwhelm our ability to cope, our stress response system is activated. While this is actually a brilliant survival system adapted by our body to keep us safe, it’s not designed to be “on” all the time. Our survival response becomes maladaptive, or harmful, when we are unable to turn it “off”.
The good news is that we can learn how to do this! Yoga based movement, mindfulness and breathing exercises have been shown to turn down the dial on our stress response and support feelings of regulation and wholeness. Our ZENworks Yoga curriculum guides students and educators through these evidence based practices each week to help them explore tools and techniques for navigating intense emotions, as well as physical sensations like racing heartbeat, shallow breathing and trouble focusing. Developing a regular habit of engaging in body based regulation practices such as these can support social emotional growth, increased resilience and overall mental wellness.
Here are two simple guided practices that we use, that you can try at home. Make sure to try them when you are in a place that feels supportive, and to make any adjustments along the way to to meet your personal needs in the moment. Check in and notice how you feel before and after- if either felt useful try and make a habit out of it, adding it into your daily routine to nurture your own mental health.
Tense & Release
Sit or lie comfortably Inhale, tighten muscles in one area of the body Exhale & soften muscles, allowing tension to release Repeat with other areas of the body, as you like
Soften focus, or close eyes Keep head still , circle eyes clockwise Circle eyes counterclockwise Pause, rest eyes Move eyes up & down, side to side Pause, rest eyes Blink eyes 2-3x Massage eye area with hands Rub palms together, cup hands over eyes, rest here 1-2 minutes