In these awfully strange times requiring self-isolation and social distancing, it's all too easy to feel inordinate amounts of anxiety and stress. Worries roll almost unceasingly through your mind. When can I go back to work? How will I pay my bills? Am I experiencing allergies or symptoms of COVID-19? Will I survive if and when I do catch the virus? Will my loved ones survive? The list goes on and on and on ...
There are hundreds of inspirational quotes and sayings that tell you how useless it is to fret about a future you cannot control, but does any of it really help? There are better ways to ease your mind and your body, even when you are stuck in a vacuum. While there are many options relieve the strain we are all experiencing during the pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home mandates, it's up to you to explore the method that best suits your soul.
Easily one of the most popular breathing exercises to help you relax is the 4-7-8 technique. Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, a famous advocate of alternative medicine, the pattern is based on an ancient yogic technique called pranayama, which forces both the mind and the body to focus on breathing. Weil dubs it "a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system."
Method: Sit or lie down comfortably and practice good posture. Rest the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, directly behind your top front teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise. The next four steps should all occur within the cycle of one breath.
1. Let your lips part and make a whooshing sound while you exhale completely through your mouth.
2. Then, close your lips and inhale silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.
3. Next, hold your breath for seven seconds.
4. Then, making another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds. When you inhale again, you are beginning another cycle.
It is recommended that you complete this patter for four full breaths. This exercise is most effective when you are trying to fall asleep and worries are circling your brain. But it wouldn't hurt to give it a try right now, either sitting comfortably at your desk or lying down for an afternoon nap.
A meditative and spiritual discipline that has been in existence for centuries, Yoga was introduced to the west in the late 19th century as a form or exercise and specifically for stress relief and relaxation. While there are yoga studios all over the Greater New Orleans area, in this time of self-isolation we are unable to attend classes in person, but there are plenty of virtual offerings available.
Wild Lotus Yoga - A holistic practice including more than just physical postures, their classes also include a combination of breathing practices, meditation, mantras, music, readings, stories and more for beginners as well as seasoned practitioners. In the face of current events, Wild Lotus Yoga just recently launched several daily, online courses for reasonable prices, whether you just want to try one class or purchase a monthly membership. They also plan on offering discounted community classes as well as complimentary offerings available on their Wild Lotus Yoga YouTube Channel.
Nola Yoga Loft - Located in the Lower Garden District, Nola Yoga Loft offers online classes for both children and adults, so your can practice at home with your whole family! Available to all fitness levels, the price scale ranges from drop-in rates and new-student specials to larger packages.
Especially for beginners, meditation can be a daunting and difficult practice to master, but when successful, can afford you a surprising sense of peace and wellness. Though some of the yoga studios mentioned above offer meditation within their classes, there are also online sources that specifically offer guided meditation.
The Tibetan House - Both a unique gift shop and meditation room, The Tibetan House on Tchoupitoulas Street is currently offering 30 and 60-minute "Sitting in Stillness" meditation classes through Skype. People with any level of experience are encouraged to participate and the classes are free, though they do request donations through Venmo if you are able.
Meditate New Orleans - Offered by Stephanie Osborne, the wife of famous local artist Terrance Osborne, Meditate New Orleans features weekly guided meditations for a small donation and she also features 20 minute sessions for free on her personal Facebook page, many of which include primordial sound or mantra-based meditation, a practice inspired by new-age author Deepak Chopra.
While it's certainly not the time to visit the gym (they're all closed anyhow), exercise is easily one of the most effective ways to alleviate stress and anxiety. It can take any form, from the above-mentioned yoga to taking a brisk, long walk or jog around your neighborhood. There are tons of online classes you can subscribe to whether you want to dance, practice pilates, aerobics or even boxing, but because cash-flow is tight, there isn't anything more well-suited to affordable (read FREE) at-home workouts than YouTube. Just hop on and do a search for "pilates" and you'll see what we mean.