Self Care Tip #11: Stretch and breathe
Ahh, stretching and breathing. Two of my favourite things to do. Although they may seem like actions that require no conscious thought, you would be surprised at how few people take the time to feed their body oxygen and stretch their muscles.
While this post was requested by a friend (sup, emciel?), it comes at a time when I’ve been on a big yoga kick. Hot yoga, flow yoga, I can’t get enough of stretching and breathing and feeling my body move. And as someone who has spent years dealing with back injury and pain through doctors and physical therapy, yoga has proven to be an excellent way to heal my back and get me moving.
Before I go any further, I want to encourage you to be aware of more than just your body and breath when doing yoga. In North America, yoga studios tend to cater to middle-to-upper-class white folks. Since yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India, I urge all of you who may participate in yoga to educate yourself and be aware of the cultural appropriation aspect. Cultural appropriation is one of the many tools used to assert white supremacy around the globe, and thinking critically about your participation in this system can prove to be a vital aspect of resisting the powers that be.
Back to stretching and breathing: in, out, in, out. For something that comes naturally, most people tend to breathe poorly. Experiment a little! Try breathing deeply so that the bottom of your lungs fill first, and then let the air slowly fill to the top. Breathe out until you feel all the air come out and start over. When you are mindful of your breath and allow your body to soak up oxygen, we are also allowing ourselves a moment to get centred. I find this extremely helpful in mitigating my stress and anxiety, and often stop throughout my day to take a few moments to breathe deeply. You’d be amazed at how often proper breathing can come in handy. Try some mindful breathing practices and you might be surprised at how much it changes.
Stretching is a fabulous thing to pair with breathing. Stretching can help with little aches and pains and even alleviate stress. A word of caution, however - it is easy to overstretch and hurt yourself, so talk to a physical therapist, take a community yoga class, or ask a trainer for some tips on stretching properly.