We all feel stress at times; the stress of work, of a hectic schedule, of finances, of testy relationships, of health concerns, of pain. And for many people, the stress can seem almost constant. While some stress is good, this excessive stress can affect our health, our relationships, our mental state of being, our happiness.
So how can we let go of some of that stress? What steps can we take toward reducing tension and pain? How do we set aside the time to take care of ourselves for a bit so that we can be better friends, more engaged parents, more productive at work (and at play!), more attentive spouses, more like ourselves?
By starting small and keeping it simple. By trying something out, giving it a chance to see if it works, even if we have our doubts.
By taking a moment to slow down, lie down on the ground with our legs up, and…
Yep. That’s it. It’s simply but can be surprisingly effective in reducing stress, tension, and pain.
Just breathe. Sounds simple but in reality it’s not. We don’t realize it but we hold our breath up in our chests for a good chunk of our day and most of us rarely, if ever, truly breathe from our bellies and our diaphragms.
This goes hand-in-hand with sucking it in to try and make our bellies flatter, too. I know I used to be guilty of this, thinking if I sucked in my gut all day I’d get a mini-ab workout in with the added benefit of looking skinnier. (hint: it doesn’t work that way!).
But sucking it in or breathing shallowly and up in our upper chests can lead to excess muscle tension which can actually contribute to our stress or pain. No bueno.
But letting your belly relax, letting your shoulders and upper back relax, taking in full deep breathes, breathing slowly…all of these things can help relieve some of that tension and help ease our stress and relieve some of our pain.
My go-to e-cise when I have pain flare-ups or a lot of stress: Static Back
I try to do Static Back for a few minutes each day but I absolutely do it when I’m under a lot of stress or I’m having a pain flare-up. It’s pretty much all I do when I’m in a major pain episode. It works for lots of folks so it may work for you, too.
Static Back is Egoscue parlance for lying on the ground with your legs up at 90° (feet up on a chair or the couch or an ottoman or a coffee table, etc. should do – add pillows if you have to). Make sure your ankles are at the same level as your knees and that your knees are over hips or just slightly forward of them (like in the picture below – prefer a video? Go here.).
Then just lie there :)
Rest your arms comfortably at your sides, palms up, legs up, and just relax there for a few moments, breathing normally. Let your back and hips settle into the ground, letting gravity do all the work to get your spine and hips level (I like to think about myself melting into the ground to promote relaxation and release tension in my hips and back).
Once your comfortable, slow down your breathing a bit, taking fuller, deeper breathes. Focus on drawing your breath deep into your belly, all the way down into your hips. Put your hand on your tummy and make it rise with each breath.
Once you master belly breathing, you can put your hands on your love handles (don’t be shy, we all have ’em) and think about drawing the air into your belly, your back, your sides – all 360° of your core. When youtake that true deep breath into your diaphragm you’ll feel you’re hands push out to the sides.
Don’t want to do all the breathing stuff?
Don’t. Just lie comfortably in static back and breathe normally, trying to relax and release the tension in your muscles. Do it for at least 5 minutes, up to 20 minutes (or longer!).
You willing to give it a try?
Just lying on your back, legs up, and breathing.
Just 5 minutes a day.
But huge rewards!
Love all the breathing stuff?
Check out my complete breathe post here.
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