Did you feel the collective exhale?
Well, at least among more liberal/progressive people, a communal sign slipped out on Saturday morning when we learned that Joseph Biden Jr, and Sen. Kamala Harris were now the presidents and vice president-elect, respectively.
For me, it felt like a thick layer of cobwebs had been holding me in sticky, fibrous prison and then were suddenly swept away by a giant broom. Afterwards, I could move and breathe and feel so much more freely. I noticed people on social media posting similar sentiments — Some felt like they could breath for the first time in four years; others celebrated by popping open champagne bottles in mid-afternoon; and, in my political progressive neighborhood in Columbus, OH, some people put cardboard cut outs of Biden and Harris at the edge of their lawn. Neighbors came by to joyfully take photos with the cutouts.
I’m a yogi and I’m pretty self-aware of breath and body. But, I didn’t even know that tension had me in is cocoon all that time. That’s just what stress does; it so slowly embeds itself in your body so that you barely notice it over time.
I listened to a recent episode of the Podcast Unlocking Us from Author, Researcher and Storyteller, Brené Brown, who did a fantastic job explaining the effects of stress on the body. She interviewed Emily and Amelia Nagoski, authors of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. One thing that they said stuck with me — Just because you remove the stressor, doesn’t mean the stress leaves your body. You have to do things that help your body release the impacts of the stress.
So, even if we felt a release initially from stress as we get nearer and nearer to certifying this contentious election, there are two things to remember: 1.) That stress we experienced has now shifted to about 70 million people who voted differently. and 2.) That stress is still somewhere in your body unless you find healthy ways to release it.
Releasing that stress in our own bodies is the only way to address culturally the division and tension that remains collectively. We need you to do our work on the world to help all of us heal. To do that, we’re going to have to deal with the pain and suffering we’ve both experienced and caused in this difficult time. I’ve been compiling a list in the last few weeks of practices that will help release the stress.
Here are five practices that you can use for grounding and calm as we move through what are going to be terrifically difficult weeks, months, even years ahead:
Breathe. This is the easiest and the hardest. When you feel your chest and throat lock in fear, disgust or judgement, take long, slow deep breaths. (Video demo)
Feel your Feet. Put your feel flat on the floor, barefoot if you can, and feel the pressure of feet against the floor, socks or shoes on feet, the touch of air on the skin.
Turn your walk into a meditation. Go out for a walk without the noise of music or a podcast in your earbuds. Feel into to your feet, the motion of your body and drink in sights, sounds, and sensations from the world around you.
Hand on Heart and Belly. While you’re breathing, put a hand on your heart and another on your belly. It often will amplify the calming/grounding effect of the breathing. (Video demo)
Mountain Breath. Watch the video demonstration below of how you inhale arms above the head; then, slowly bring arms down by your sides on the exhale, press palms firmly into the tops of your thighs as you finish the exhale and finally take two natural breaths with your hands resting on your thighs. This practice is both grounding and energizing.
Guess what? I’m giving you more opportunities to release stress in community in the next few weeks! Join me for my Alternative Black Friday Yoga/Mediation at Noon ET on Friday, Nov. 27. Register here for the free Zoom yoga session. Can’t wait to see you there!