Relaxation Rituals for Uncertain Times
Tracee Stanley shares ten rituals to help you relax your mind, body and spirit during uncertain times
by Tracee Stanley
Living through a time when the baseline level of chaos is constantly rising is exhausting for the body, mind, and spirit, we may feel fearful, anxious, or depressed due to the lack of certainty. We may feel that we are frequently in fight-or-flight mode, where the body responds to perceived danger by hitting its ‘go’ button to pump out stress hormones and chemicals that make our hearts beat faster, our breathing pick up, our muscles tense, and our sweat glands kick into gear. We need an antidote to the chaos and to the feelings of helplessness and confusion it can bring.
In times of uncertainty, we must double down on our practices. That doesn’t mean that we need to practice twice as long. We merely need to bring twice as much devotion and presence to whatever practices we are doing. The question is: what is the yoga practice to turn to when we are facing the unknown? The quiet practices of yoga, like yin yoga, yoga nidra, and restorative yoga, can help us tap into a place within us that is always steady.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have seen practices like deep relaxation and yoga nidra rise in popularity. As a global collective, we have never needed deep rest and relaxation more. Deep relaxation techniques can be grounding. They allow us to feel supported and held. They help us activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which acts like the body’s pause button, calming it down and promoting the rest-and-digest response. Practicing deep relaxation techniques helps us learn how to self-regulate and build greater resilience in the face of chronic stress. Yoga Nidra is a practice that we can rely on to bring us back towards center.
For extra support during this time, try some of the practices I’ve outlined below to keep you feeling grounded and steady.
10 Relaxation Rituals for Chaotic Times
- Practice Yoga Nidra first thing in the morning. As soon as you wake up, instead of pressing snooze, practice yoga nidra. The transition between sleeping and waking is a liminal space that holds a lot of magic. It’s a powerful portal to awakening. Allow this time to become sacred and begin the day with yoga nidra. For guided yoga nidra practices, you can practice with me online through my five-day Commune Deep Relaxation class. If you want to dive deeper into the nuances of this infinite practice, pre-order my book Radiant Rest: Yoga Nidra for Deep Relaxation and Awakened Clarity, forthcoming March 2021 from Shambhala.
- Transition Journaling. As you emerge from yoga nidra practice, allow yourself the space to be aware of the transition between finishing the practice and getting back to your day. Get quiet, and take a few moments to practice journaling. By spending time journaling, you can tap into the clarity that emerges from practice, integrate and process the experience, and keep track of your journey.
- Practice a body scan mid-day. Schedule a ‘relax and check-in’ with yourself midday. Start by lying down and slowly scanning your body from head to toe. Notice where you’re holding onto tension in your body. Bring awareness to the breath. Watch the navel rise and fall as you breath in and out through the nose. Allow the breath to become smooth and even. 5 minutes.
- Invite others to rest with you. Who can you count on for support on your healing journey? Who do you know that could use support? Try inviting a close friend or family member to practice deep relaxation techniques with you. Commit to holding each other accountable for staying devoted to restful and healing practices.
- Soothe yourself to sleep. Create a sleep ritual. Make a conscious transition into winding down by turning off devices, taking a warm bath, or drinking calming teas that enhance sleep and dreams. Try mugwort, chamomile, or passionflower.
- Spend time in nature. Yoga reminds us to connect with our elemental nature and the universe within us. Connecting with nature can help to amplify feelings of inner peace and enhance relaxation and sleep.
- Practice silence for 30 minutes before sleep. That means no journaling, reading, texting, or listening to music! Can you sit in total silence in your favorite chair with a cup of tea and be utterly silent for 30 minutes?
- Take time to study the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Especially the yamas and niyamas, which are ethical guides to how you treat yourself and others. Make notes of the ones you find most challenging. My suggestion is to start working with ahimsa or non-harming as the first quality to infuse into your life. Notice your thoughts, speech, and actions towards both yourself and to others. Notice how fear of the unknown may affect your thoughts and behavior.
- Fall in love with dreaming. You might notice that once you begin to practice yoga nidra or other quiet practices consistently that your dream life becomes more vivid, or even lucid. This is a good thing. Dreams help you to process the events of the day and may even help to guide you in your waking life. Keep a dream journal by your bed to make notes about your dreams.
- Who do you want to be? Ask yourself the question: If I had one week left to live, how would I live my life? Make a list: What do you want to be remembered for? What wisdom do you want to leave behind? Who would you have loved more? What would you stop wasting time doing? Once you have your answers- use your answers to guide your future actions. Keep the list posted somewhere where you can see if every day. Practicing living with purpose is an important ritual that allows you to begin to relax into your most powerful self. This relaxed power is what we all need most right now.
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