Updated: Apr 20, 2020
In January, I planned out ideas for my blog posts and meditations all the way through until September. I did this, not because I am incredibly organised, but because I work best in the moment, and in that moment, I was inspired. In fact, the way I live my life best, is by noticing and moving with my own instincts throughout the day. For me, these surges of creativity, productivity or need for rest appear so intensely and vividly that they are impossible to ignore. If I do ignore them, I find myself unfocused, stressed and untethered, usually resulting in a long nap.
When I follow these instincts, however, no matter how difficult to decipher at first, I feel more aligned and at ease. If you can relate to this (or if you don't know it yet!), and also happen to find yourself working from home for the foreseeable future, this is especially for you.
Now we have all been social distancing for a few weeks, I felt it was time to offer up a practice for you to try. In these unusual times it should help you to separate thoughts of what you think you need, from what you really need. This exercise therefore works to help you understand what your anxiety, stress, bodily sensations, emotions or thoughts could really be telling you, in the moment that you sense them arriving within. It can also enable you to recognise that which no longer serves you, allowing you to experience more of what does.
What do I need?
While attempting to keep some sense of normalcy in your work and exercise routine you may have already forgotten to ask yourself what you need. Often, understanding what we need can be a paradox. We don't always know what it is until we actually do it!
Sometimes we need comfort, sometimes rest, sometimes discipline, sometimes movement, sometimes clarity, sometimes food, water or energy, the list goes on. We cannot always receive the things we need from others, or gain outside perspective, especially now, therefore it is helpful to find the source of these needs from within. As our physical surroundings are now smaller and more isolated, it is important to begin asking yourself what you need more regularly. If what comes up for you is currently unavailable, the practice of shifting towards something else of benefit, can be a great skill to learn.
"Be true to your instincts. Knock on the doors of your inner life so gently, that each undiscovered room opens its door to you with a loving embrace. Embrace whatever you may find back, and maybe you can sit still with yourself, a little more each day..."
Exercise: Asking yourself*
Practice the exercise below to see if you can find more understanding of what you need during the day. Practice it often. You may currently have more space and time, hopefully in the comfort of your own home. Be true to your instincts. Knock on the doors of your inner life so gently, that each undiscovered room opens its door to you with a loving embrace. Embrace whatever you may find back, and maybe you can sit still with yourself, a little more each day.
Take a comfortable seat, roll out a yoga mat if you like (not essential!). You will need a little space around you. Begin by sitting tall, in the quiet. Notice your breath moving in and out of your body and where your body is touching the ground. You could even start this practice with my five breaths meditation to help you ground into the moment.
Move. As simple as that. Move however you feel. On hands and knees, lying down, standing, all of the above. Shake one body part at a time. Bring your arms overhead in standing on an inhale and exhale, release your arms folding over your legs. Crawl, stretch, play. Squish your face together, find some organic movement. (If you are not used to this, don't be embarrassed, you will get more experienced with practice!)
After you have moved and breathed for a few minutes, take a seat in stillness, and begin to ask yourself 'what do I need?' It's just a question. A gentle invitation to your intuition. You can speak out loud or in your head.
Maybe something will come up for you, maybe not. Either way it is helpful to repeat steps 2-3 until you find yourself feeling a little more relaxed and maybe an answer will reveal itself to you. After you have done this as many times as you like, sit in silence for a few minutes longer.
If the answer to what you need isn't possible right now, in the current circumstances, use the list below to help you find your own resources to replace what is coming up within your for the time being. Maybe, if it feels right for you, search for some acceptance, knowing that this isn't forever.
As a complimentary exercise I recommend making a 'could be list' to aid you with the above exercise, maybe after you have practiced it a few times. Be gentle with yourself. We don't want any feelings of pressure or stress to arise, no words like must or should do. It is a list of actions that 'could be' what you need in any given moment, on any given day. They can be as simple as our basic human needs to things that bring you joy. Sometimes even practical things like organising your odd socks! It could also include actions you can take as a result of specific emotions or thoughts as you get better at identifying what you need. This becomes a gateway to your intuition and greater self regulation.
I'll give some examples below and of course you can add your own! Let me know if there's anything you would add to the could be list!
My Could Be List
Basics: Food, water, sun, sleep.
Drink a glass of water
Eat a piece of fruit
Eat a piece of chocolate
Sit by a window in the sun or in your garden
Take a break
Tidy a drawer
Plan (or don't plan!)
Clean your workspace
Do that thing you have been putting off (or don't!)
Take some vitamins
Watch an episode of your favourite program
Social media break
A cup of tea
Journal your thoughts and emotions
Listen to music
Call a friend of family member
Start to compile your own 'could be' list, so that for any given moment, you can try something that often works for you. Please bear in mind that sometimes, all you need is to simply be with anything that is coming up for you, especially at times like these. Find what works best for you.
Your list could include things that you enjoy doing, things you don't normally have the confidence to do, things that help you relax. Include the basics listed above and any others that resonate with you. When you feel a pang of anxiety, restlessness, tension, try the 'asking yourself' exercise above and/or some 'could be' activities out for size until one fits. Edit your list accordingly and find what works for you. Maybe you're the kind of person that likes to plan out each day meticulously. Maybe you like to make a general list, and pick things when you feel like it (the latter is the case for me, even though it goes against all you are told about productivity!) Give yourself enough freedom to explore your intuition and room to breathe, but most importantly, trust yourself. You may be surprised!
Did you find any of these tips helpful? Share below or on facebook at www.facebook.com/yogaflowoflife
All the best,
*as a reference, this practice was adapted from something that Ruth Allen from Whitepeak Wellbeing once posted on her instagram account. I can't quite remember her original method, but I hope she will mot mind that I adapted it here. You can find her beautiful words, work and philosophy via instagram: https://www.instagram.com/whitepeak_ruth/