While the past few years have been trying for everyone, healthcare professionals have taken the brunt of the load. Working long hours on their feet, bending over beds, and taking care of those in the midst of struggle, nurses deserve time for rest and healing. Yoga is a wonderful tool for self-regulation, support, and self-love. Whether it’s 10 minutes or 60 minutes, a little time spent moving mindfully is a beautiful way to meet yourself where you are and connect with your breath. In this article, we will take a look at some poses and breathing techniques to benefit nurses and healthcare professionals. You are invited to bring any yoga props with you to the mat that you consider suitable.
Mini Sequence for the Legs and Feet
- You can begin by coming into a tabletop position, hands and knees on the mat.
- Next, extend one leg out behind you, keeping the toes tucked on the mat. Encourage length in the back of the leg, maybe sitting back a bit to increase the sensation.
- When you’re ready, switch sides and repeat steps 1 and 2.
- When you’ve taken both sides, come back to your tabletop position.
- Tuck the toes under with an inhale.
- Exhale to sit the hips back to heels for fire toes. You can keep your hands planted on the mat or bring them back towards the knees and work toward lifting them off the mat entirely. Stay as long as you’d like.
- Come back to a tabletop, untuck the toes, and pad the feet out on the mat.
- Take the knees a bit wider than hips-width distance and sit your hips back to your heels, finding a child’s pose.
Mini Sequence for Hips and Hamstrings
- You can begin by coming into tabletop position. If you have yoga blocks or sturdy books, you might bring them beneath your palms.
- Extend one leg out behind you, keeping the toes tucked on the mat.
- Exhale to bring the foot forward between your palms to find a low crescent lunge
- Drop the back knee and untuck the toes, rise up. Maybe bring arms overhead or to your heart center.
- Exhale to bring your hands down to your blocks or your mat as you straighten your front leg, finding half split. Flare onto the heel and keep a micro bend in the knee. Try to keep your spine long, using your blocks to lift the floor up to you. Stay as long as you want.
- Rebend into the front knee and bring both hands to the inside of your front foot, finding a lizard lunge. Take your foot as far out to the edge of the mat as you’d like, maybe even turn your toes out.
- When you’re ready to unwind, press into the palms and slide your foot to the back of the mat to reset.
- Take steps 1-7 on the other side.
Mini Sequence #2 for Hips and Hamstrings
- Begin by coming to lie down on your back.
- Take the arms over your head and find a good morning stretch. Grow long from fingers to toes.
- Use an exhale to hug your knees into your chest and rock a little side to side.
- Release the soles of your feet to the mat, letting the knees reach up to the sky.
- Reach one leg up to the sky, keeping as much of a bend in the knee as you’d like to feel comfortable.
- Reach your hands to interlace at the back of your thigh. Hug the leg as close as you’d like to find the sensation that is best for you.
- Release the foot back down to the mat.
- Windshield wiper your legs side to side to reset.
- Take steps 1-8 on the other side.
- Come back to your back with the soles of your feet on the mat.
- Lift one leg and open the hip so the outside of the ankle comes to rest on top of the opposite leg. Keep the toes of your top foot flexed. Stay with the bottom foot planted or lift it off the mat and reach the hands for the back of your thigh.
- You are welcome to stay as long as you’d like before you unwind to switch sides.
Repeat steps 1-12 as many times as you’d like.
Mini Sequence for Neck and Shoulders
- You can begin by either coming to a seat on the floor or a chair. If you sit on the floor, you might lift the hips with a blanket or pillow to find more ease in the body.
- With an inhale, lift the arms overhead
- Exhale to cactus the arms, bending into the elbows and flipping the palms to face forward.
- Inhale to re-extend the arms.
- Exhale to take a seated twist to the right. Bring your right palm or fingertips to the mat behind you and the left palm to the right thigh.
- Inhale back through to center, lift the arms.
- Exhale to take a seated twist to the left.
- Inhale to unwind and repeat steps 1-8 as many times as you’d like before moving on.
- Bring the palms outside the hips. You might tent onto the fingertips to find length in the neck.
- Use your exhale to bring one of your ears to your shoulder. Breathe into the neck. Maybe tuck your chin towards your chest slightly to change the sensations.
- Come back up through center and take the other side.
Repeat steps 1-11 as needed.
Now, we will look at some ways that you can harness the breath to find ease and facilitate healing. Please note that all pranayama practices should be done with caution; if you begin to feel anxious or lightheaded, please return to your natural breathing rhythm.
Alternate Nostril Breath or Nadi Shodhana
Alternate nostril breathing is a great way to facilitate calmness and relaxation by mindfully controlling the breath. It is important, as you practice alternate nostril breathing, to breathe evenly with each inhale and exhale. Consistency is helpful so you might consider counting for each inhale and exhale to match the length of the breath.
- Begin by finding a comfortable seated position. This could look like supporting the hips with a blanket or pillow. The legs could be crossed or maybe you find a bound angle or half lotus pose. Take your time to find the most comfortable seat you can.
- Close your eyes. Take your right hand, bringing your pointer and middle fingers to rest on your third eye space, between the eyebrows.
- Take a full breath in and out.
- Inhale then close the right nostril with your thumb. Exhale out of your left nostril.
- Inhale into your left nostril then release your thumb to open the right nostril while closing the left nostril with your pinky or ring finger.
- Exhale out of your right nostril. Inhale into your right nostril.
- Close the right nostril and exhale out of the left nostril.
Repeat steps 1-7 for at least 10 rounds.
- When you’re done, release both nostrils and let the palms rest on the knees.
- Take a few rounds of slow, smooth, and complete inhales and exhales.
Box breathing is a relatively simple exercise that involves mindfully controlling your breath with counting.
- Begin by finding a comfortable seated position.
- Close the eyes, take a deep breath in and sigh it out.
- Take a few rounds of breath to just follow your natural rhythm.
- When you’re ready, inhale to the count of four.
- Hold your inhale at the top for two.
- Exhale to the count of four.
- Hold your exhale for two.
- Repeat steps 1-7 for as long as you’d like.
Once you feel comfortable with this, you can play with extending the suspension of your inhale and the retention of your exhale to match the length of your inhales and exhales themselves. You can then take it to the count of six for all.
Each of the practices offered today has the capability to bring about ease and contentment. Choosing to spend time with yourself on your mat or with your breath is such a wonderful gift to give yourself. Remember that everyone experiences things differently and if you do not have a positive experience with these practices, it is okay! Yoga classes encourage us to meet ourselves as we are with compassion and grace each step of the way.