Last week’s events in Boston had my eyes glued to my computer, feeling anxious and heartsick. It’s destabilizing to see an injured colleague in an news photo, and to hear from students and friends who were at or less than a minute away from the marathon finish line when the bombs exploded. Many of my Facebook and Twitter contacts are endurance athletes with some direct connection to Boston, and it’s been tough to pull myself away from the refresh button to recenter. Here are three steps that helped me; they can help you not just now but whenever you feel emotionally vulnerable.
In addition to the decreased stress and increased focus exercise gives you, going for a run, ride, or swim, or moving through a flowing practice on your mat takes you away from screens and media. The quiet of not watching news can be deeply restorative, especially if you can exercise in nature, near trees or a body of water.
Breath cue: Notice how your breath coordinates with the motion of your body. Find the rhythm of footfalls or strokes to inhalation and exhalation. Listen to the sound of your breath; let it guide you to an effort that is focusing for your body and mind but not exhausting.
The anxiety of uncertainty, often combined with the visual assault of violent images and flashing computer graphics, leaves us feeling ungrounded and scattered. To combat this destabilization, take a supported Balasana (Child’s Pose). Find a yoga bolster or a few bed pillows and, on a soft surface, bring your big toes together and your knees wide. Slip your pillows under your belly and chest, sinking your weight into their support. (If this is tough on the knees, a second pillow between hamstrings and calves can help.)
Breath cue: Stay for a few minutes, tuning in to the motion and duration of each breath. Pay special attention to long exhalations, which will help settle your nervous system and, metaphorically, remind you to keep letting go and to be still in this moment.
Open Your Heart
Sad news can feel literally constrictive on the heart. A supported Fish Pose can counter this tightness in the chest and leave you feeling more open-hearted. Take your pillows under your spine, lengthwise, as you lean against them. You can rest your legs straight, take Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) legs, or simply cross your legs at the shins. Arrange your hands to the side, either by the hips or, as your chest releases, a little higher off the shoulders.
Breath cue: Over a few minutes, notice the capacity for expansion across the front. Noticing your breath, take a few extra-deep inhalations, feeling the expansion in places that have been tight. Let this remind you that you have extra resources—sources of energy, literally, on this inhalation—available to you at every moment, should you need to call on them.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. May all beings everywhere be happy and free.