By Jacci Gruninger, MS, C-IAYT, ERYT500
This week my yoga teacher friend Kristine Coblentz, MA, CYT200 shares a few thoughts about yoga as a tool for working through uncertainty.
I’ll be back next week with the installment of the Yamas & Niyamas.
You can join Kristine and me for yoga practice at 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 6 p.m. Sundays at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church*.
By Kristine Coblentz
On my way to Sunday yoga last week I found myself feeling anxious without a clear reason. Ever the observer, my husband remarked, “Maybe it’s the smoke”.
For anyone who has lived with forest fire, even the whiff of smoke can evoke a sense of fear and apprehension. Our nervous systems were designed this way to protect us – they use all of our senses to constantly scan the environment for threats of harm.
Unfortunately our minds and bodies are not wired for sustaining this level of stress and worry over long periods of time. So after the past few years of witnessing and navigating divisive politics, natural disasters, global unrest, and the effects of a novel pandemic, it is no wonder many of us are feeling frazzled and frayed at the edges.
This type of chronic stress can show up in many ways: increased irritability and anger, inability to sleep, muscle tension, interpersonal conflict, a lack of focus and motivation, and a turn toward less helpful habits like overeating, drinking or even complaining. If any of these symptoms sound like your experience, you are not alone.
So what’s the antidote? Practicing slow, mindful movements in sync with the breath has been shown to shift the nervous system from high alert to a state of calm and ease. It is in this parasympathetic state that the body and brain are able to rest and recharge. But in this fast paced world, who has time for moving slowly?
I used to be more of an all or nothing type of person. If I couldn’t make it to a one-hour gym class or make time for a run, exercise pretty much didn’t happen. As I got busier, I just couldn’t find the time and I began to feel the effects of stress and tension in my body and in my moods. It was only when I discovered the idea of micro-resets – short movement or breathing breaks – that I was able to figure out a sustainable routine. And once I started feeling the benefits of these mini-routines, I found I was more committed to carving out time for longer practices.
Some easy mini-routines to add into your day:
- Seated Cat and Cow – Sit tall and on an exhale round your spine toward the back of the room and drop your chin toward your throat. Inhale and lift your tailbone, ribs, chest and open the front of your throat. Repeat this 4-6 times.
- Hara Twisting – Sit tall and bring your fingers to your shoulders. Inhale at center and exhale a short, fast breath through the mouth as you twist to the right. Repeat 6-10 times. Pause at center and repeat on the left. After you finish, pause again and just take a moment to notice and feel.
- Half Moon – Stand tall and press your feet to the ground. Inhale your right arm up over head and your left hand to your hip. Exhale and press your right hip to the right and side bend to the left. Come in and out with the breath 4-6 times. Pause at center and then repeat on the other side.
- Wrist Circles – Thread your fingers together and bring your elbows together or a few inches apart. Circle your hands around your wrist 6-10 times in one direction and 6-10 times in the other direction.
- Three Breaths – Sit tall and take three deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Repeat as often as needed.
Although classes will have a different feel depending on the teacher and their own personal style, Pranakriya Yoga classes all follow a similar format that has been shown to help down-regulate the central nervous system. We begin with some form of centering and breathing to help connect the mind and body. The centering is followed by warming up the body to help the student prepare the joints and muscles for the practice and check in with themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Warm-up type movements might be woven throughout the class in addition to kriyas (movements in and out of the posture) and more traditional postures. An emphasis on the breath is maintained through the entire practice. Relaxation happens at the end of class often followed by additional calming breathwork and a closing centering or meditation.
This format allows the student to practice safely while releasing tensions in the mind and body. Within each Pranakriya class, you will find mini-routines that you can carry back into your everyday life. As you continue to develop a daily personal practice, moving between states of high alert and relaxation will become progressively easier and more accessible to you. You will begin to experience the many health benefits of pausing and practicing slow, mindful movement throughout your day.
Pranakriya Classes welcome students of all levels and experience. You can practice with us on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 2390 North Rd. in Los Alamos. Classes are offered independently of the church.
Yoga for Every Body (6:15-7:15 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays) is for the beginner to the more experienced student. Participants are invited to move at their own level and pace. Modifications and variations are offered so that all can benefit from this practice. We explore safe alignment, strength, balance, and mobility through the practice of yoga postures, functional movement, breathwork and centering.
Chill Yoga (6-7 p.m. Sundays) is a great way to wrap up your weekend and prepare for your week. Gentle movement sequences, breath work, guided silent meditation, and relaxation support increased awareness and mindfulness of the breath and body and quieting of the nervous system.
All classes are offered on a Pay What You Can basis. The recommended contribution is $5-15 per class. Bring a yoga mat and towel or blanket to assist with comfort and alignment. High Mesa Yoga classes are taught by Kristine Coblentz & Jacci Gruninger who are both trained in the Pranakriya lineage of yoga which was developed to enrich our lives and our communities both on and off the mat. Follow @HighMesaYoga on Facebook for updates and class schedules. (BLC is not a sponsor of these classes.)
Kristine Coblentz is a Certified Yoga Teacher with the Pranakriya School of Healing Arts and in training to become a Certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher with The Awareness Training Institute and the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley. She has extensive experience working with youth, adults, and community organizations to develop resilience and life skills for healthier living. For more information visit https://movemindfully.wixsite.com/kristine.
Jacci Gruninger is a Certified Yoga Therapist and Thai Yoga Massage Therapist. She has been teaching for 21 years and spent 12 of those years training yoga teachers for the Pranakriya School of Yoga Healing Arts. She regularly helps clients manage the ups and downs of life with yoga, meditation, breathwork and bodywork. Her office is at 190 Central Park Square #209. For her in-person teaching schedule and information on other services, visit www.yogawithjacci.com to find out more.