This week, I had the opportunity to join Kim Linder (pictured w/me below), host of The Caregiver Hour, in the Clear Channel studios in Tampa, FL.  Along with Viki Kind, I was a guest on Monday’s Radio Show where we discussed Compassion in a variety of ways.

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Kim shared some thought-provoking insights on how being an effective caregiver includes turning that compassion toward yourself in order to bring your best self to those you care for.  Then, Viki shared some good stuff from her book, The Caregiver’s Path to Compassionate Decision Making on how to be respectful and wise when making decisions for those who can’t decide for themselves.  And, finally we talked about how caregivers can take a moment – both at work and throughout their day – to de-stress and refocus their attention in order to help feel a sense of balance while managing their unique responsibilities.  (Click here to listen to the 7/5/10 recording.)

Here are a few tips I shared (plus a couple extras) for simple, do-anywhere ways to take a yoga moment for yourself:

  1. The first and most simple thing you can do is breathe. Seems obvious, right?  Yet, when we get stressed in work and in life, we tend to breathe in a way that’s very quick and shallow or even hold our breath altogether (neither of which are conducive to calm).  Lengthening your breath will automatically start to calm you down.  Breathe deeply, using your diaphragm (meaning your belly should expand as you inhale), and fill up your lungs completely.  Then, when exhaling, slowly try to release all of the air and empty the lungs.  A wonderful tool to help you focus on your breath and away from your stress, is square breathing.  I wrote all about it (and some optional meditative elements) last week in the post Simple Stress Relief w/Square Breathing.
  2. Gently stretch out your neck and shoulders. This is particularly good if you spend a lot of time working on a computer.  Do it while you’re waiting for something to print, while on a conference call, or any other time you need it.  Begin by sitting up tall in your chair, both feet on the floor, reach your right ear toward your right shoulder (not bringing the shoulder up to the ear, but the ear down toward the shoulder).  Feel the gentle stretch on the left side of your neck.  Take three to five breaths here.  Bring your head back up to center and then reach your left ear toward your left shoulder.  Again, hold for three to five breaths.  Bring your head back up to center and bring your chin down to your chest.  Slowly, gently, and mindfully (keeping the chin down) rock your head left to right – stretching the back of the neck.  After three to five breaths, hold in the center and bring your head back up to a neutral position.
  3. Open your heart and improve your posture. Again, this is a great one if you spend a lot of time hunched over a computer, driving in a car, or leaning over detailed work such as sewing.  Begin by sitting up tall in your chair, both feet on the floor.  Bring both hands behind your back and, interlacing the fingers, clasp your hands together (palms should be touching).  Then, as you breath smoothly, draw your shoulder blades together and begin to lift your clasped hands up behind you, as you’re able.  You should feel an openness in your chest.  Hold for two to three breaths and gently release the hands down.
  4. Loosen up your spine and ease your back. Sitting comfortably in your chair, inhale and straighten your spine. As you exhale,  place your left hand on your right knee, slowly turn in the low spine to the right, and – as you’re able – use your right hand on the back of your chair to help you twist.  Try to look behind you over your right shoulder.  Hold for three to five breaths.  Gently untwist.  Inhale and straighten your spine.  As you exhale, place your right hand on your left knee, slowly turn in the low spine to the left, and – as you’re able – use your left hand on the back of your chair to help you twist.  Try to look behind you over your left shoulder.  Hold for three to five breaths.  Gently untwist.
  5. Open your hips and release tension. Sitting comfortably in your chair. Place your left ankle on your right knee. As you exhale , lower yourself forward, resting your elbows on your  left shin.  If you’d like a little deeper stretch, lower yourself farther and reach your hands toward the floor. Let your head hang. Hold for three to five breaths.  Raise yourself with your arms, head hanging until last. Bring your left foot back to the floor.  Repeat on the other side by placing your right ankle on your left knee.  As you exhale , lower yourself forward, resting your elbows on your  right shin.  Again, lowering yourself all the way forward, reaching your hands toward the floor – if you’d like a deeper stretch. Let your head hang. Hold for three to five breaths.  Raise yourself with your arms, head hanging until last.
  6. Turn lemons into lemonade. There are certain situations in which most people get stressed (sitting in traffic, waiting in long lines, experiencing less-than-courteous customer service – just to name a few).  Why not think of those, not as agitating circumstances, but as an opportunity for a mindful moment.  Use those situations (and possibly your rising tension level) as indicators that it might be a good time to take a yoga break.  Practice your controlled breathing (see #1 above) while sitting in traffic, balance carefully on one foot while waiting in line at the bank (make it fun by switching feet each time the line progresses), or think of something you’re thankful for when that cashier gives you a bad attitude.
  7. If you can, take a yoga class or practice at home (lots of good DVDs are available to help you get started).  A regular yoga practice will not only bring lots of physical benefits, but can help you develop the skills needed to manage normal daily stress and better cope with the unexpected.  Click here for the top ten reasons to try yoga.

Missed the live show and want to listen to the recording of my visit to The Caregiver Hour?  Click here and then click “play” next to the July 5, 2010 episode.

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