How Yoga Helped Me Navigate a Crisis

Life can take unexpected turns, and last Thursday, mine took a sharp one. My husband, alone at home, suffered a seizure. Initially diagnosed as a heart attack and later as a blood clot, it was ultimately revealed as a fractured thoracic spine (T3 and T6).

It’s been a tough week to say the least. Thankfully, he is responding to the treatment and is now on the road to recovery.

In times of distress, the support of family and friends has been a lifeline. But I also want to highlight how breathwork and meditation practices that I’ve learnt through yoga, became my anchors over the past week.

So this isn’t a story seeking sympathy, but rather one that highlights the practical applications of yoga in difficult times. Here are 3 yoga techniques that helped me along with explanations on how they can benefit you too:

Lengthened Exhales:

Technique: Find a comfortable position, sitting or standing. Close your eyes gently if that feels calming, or soften your gaze if you prefer to keep them open. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, feeling your belly expand with each inhale. As you exhale, purse your lips slightly and slowly release the breath out through your mouth, feeling your belly gently contract. Aim to make your exhale twice as long as your inhale (for example, inhale for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 8).

Benefits: This extended exhalation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, your body’s “rest and digest” response. This helps to slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and promote feelings of calmness.

Body Connection (Grounding):

Technique: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and wiggle your toes to connect with the ground. Feel the pressure of the earth beneath each foot. Imagine roots growing down from your feet, anchoring you to the ground. Take a deep inhale through your nose, filling your belly. As you exhale, gently tense your core and imagine drawing your navel inwards towards your spine. Hold for a moment, then release on the next inhale. Repeat for several breaths.

Benefits: This practice creates a sense of physical stability, which can translate into emotional stability during challenging times. Grounding techniques remind us that we are supported, not alone.

Moving Meditation (Mindful Walking):

Technique: You don’t need to be sitting down to meditate. You can meditate pretty much anywhere. Indoors or outdoors – Begin by standing tall with your feet hip-width apart. Take a few deep breaths, focusing on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body. As you begin to walk, place your full attention on the feeling of each foot coming into contact with the ground. Notice the sensations in your feet, ankles, and legs with each step. If your mind wanders, gently guide your attention back to your breath and the feeling of your body moving.

Benefits: Mindful walking combines the benefits of meditation with gentle movement. It helps to quiet the mind, reduce anxiety, and improve focus. The rhythmic movement can also be calming and grounding.

Beyond the Asana: A Toolbox for Emotional Well-being

This experience highlighted that yoga offers more than physical postures. It’s a practice that equips you with tools to navigate life’s challenges. Remember, these techniques are a starting point. Explore yoga Nidra (guided relaxation), restorative yoga poses for deep relaxation, or journaling your thoughts and feelings.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Crisis can be exhausting. Allow yourself to feel your emotions, and seek support from loved ones or a therapist. Yoga can be a powerful tool for emotional well-being, but having a support system is crucial.