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Today I practiced pranayama (breath control/practice) at the Toronto CNE.

I have a fear of heights which sky rocketed when my teenage nieces enthusiastically invited me to join them on the midway rides.

Anxiety increased, as I rode the Ferris wheel up to the top – muscles tensed, my breath quickened.

Their smiling faces helped somewhat, so did practicing pranayama. I consciously slowed my breath, breathing in more deeply and taking long slow exhales, exhaling for longer than I inhaled. I could experience the tension in my muscles dissolving, anxiety lessening.

Similarly on the Alpine ride gliding above the CNE, I breathed long and slow, pressed my back against the car I was sitting in to feel more steady and grounded. I countered catastrophic thoughts with positive self talk to the point where I could look around and begin to enjoy the sights, sounds and colours of the CNE.

One of the benefits of yoga is the attention given to the breath. It can be a great resource in day to day situations. When you encounter a situation that evokes anxiety - there are many yoga breath practices that are calming and grounding. Alternate nostril breath, stair step breath and candle breath to name a few can help settle the nervous system and relax body and mind.

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  • Writer's picturekathleenoconnell

Happy Fall Everyone

Recently I saw this beautiful white squirrel busy gathering food for winter. As the temperature falls and the days grow shorter we need nourishing and warming foods and more rest. Unlike animals that hibernate during winter we can be just as busy if not busier than at other times of the year. Yoga Nidra and Restorative yoga support the relaxation and immune systems to restore balance in body and mind.

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  • Writer's picturekathleenoconnell

Include yoga in your travel plans. Since travel often involves lots of sitting, standing, waiting here are some yoga postures to stretch and refresh.

Travelling with Yoga

Pelvic tilts: Lie down on the back on a mat, towel, carpet with knees bent-feet on floor, breathe in, allow abdomen to expand and low back to rise a little off the floor, exhale, draw abdomen in and sink low back into the floor. Repeat this movement a number of times. It can ease discomfort in the low back.

For legs and hips: if there is space, you may be able to do this posture from a seated position or lie down on the back, extend legs, point toes, flex into heels. Bend knees one at a time; clasp the shin with hands, inhale and exhale. draw the bent leg towards the body, hold the position for a few breaths then release the leg down to the floor. Release the leg and foot to the floor. You can draw both knees in as well, clasp shins, rock a little side to side when lying on the back.

Hip circles: Lie on the floor, draw both knees close to chest. Place a hand loosely on each kneecap, separate knees circle them forward, arms will lengthen. Draw both knees close to the body as you exhale. Repeat this number of times as feels comfortable.

Walk around that train, plane, and take breaks when travelling by car too!

Shoulder shrugs and circles: Sit tall in a relaxed position, lengthen the spine. Inhale raise shoulders up towards ears, exhale with a sigh or sound to release some of the physical/mental stress that can accompany travelling. Repeat a few times. Shoulder circles: Raise arms up to the side at shoulder height, bend elbows and place hands with tented fingers loosely on top of shoulders, circle elbows forward in front of chest a few times, and then circle in the other direction.

Arrived at your destination? Feeling fatigued? Try legs up the wall to refresh. On a mat, blanket or carpet, sit with hips sideways and close to the wall, lean back onto forearms and pivot so that hips and legs face the wall. Raise legs up the wall, place heels against the wall, soft bend in knees, legs extended. Breathe slowly and deeply. Relax for 5-10 minutes in this positon, as long as the position is comfortable. If you experience any discomfort or tingling in legs, bend knees, place soles of feet against the wall, and to come out, bend knees, draw them in to the body and using hands on floor as support, slowly roll over to the right side, and come up and back out into sitting. If all of this seems too complicated, use a chair for support, lie on back, and place bent legs on the chair seat. These positions can stimulate circulation and be refreshing.

I encourage anyone who has not done yoga before, and has any health concerns to check in with your doctor before starting a yoga program. Happy travels!!

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