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Breathe – Stretch – Rest

Embrace this three-pillar approach to keep the dreaded survival mode at arms length. By Siri Arti

Survival parenting is not something I want to get used to. There have been times in my parenting life when survival has been my main agenda: make enough money; get enough sleep, eat food healthy enough to sustain me; keep my children alive; keep the roof over our heads and so on.
Life can be tough, and demands on our health high. Becoming a parent makes us immediately responsible for things outside of ourselves, so it’s important to keep a keen eye on this to ensure we don’t lose ourselves in the survival game. The real aim is for all of us to thrive. When things are easy, all is well, but when challenges come our way, strategies that minimise stress and build stamina and strength are the way to go. Some may have a strong support system in place, while others may feel more alone and the struggle is real. Through these times, having an awareness of the effects of stress is important, as is the way to manage it.
Through many years of parenting, aspiring to keep my children safe and happy, I have noticed unhealthy stress responses to situations. I’ve observed myself taking the edge off through the likes of comfort eating, habitual evening glasses of wine and regular pain medication to release the tension in my jaw. Of course, none of this helps me navigate life effectively. Through the ages and phases, the most effective strategy I’ve found has been one that embraces the three-pillars of breathe – stretch – rest. If I find a way to sustain these mindful and healthy actions, my life falls into a more peaceful pace and even the most challenging times become manageable.

Start at the very beginning
Some crazy folk wake at the crack of dawn and spend hours committed to their daily practice, bringing harmony and balance to both themselves and the household. As much as I admire this, my experience as a parent is that having endless hours to spend alone has never been my reality. Sometimes the best I can do is to grab a moment to throw myself up the wall in a restorative stretch and pray like mad for change while I’m there. It was during one of these desperate moments that I came to recognise the magic of simplicity. While upside down, praying for sanity, I drew in a deep breath, raised my legs higher up the wall, and surrendered into the deepest rest I had felt for a while. It was bliss… and it felt attainable too: a simple conscious breath, a thorough stretch and enough rest to rejuvenate, restore and reset. I was ready to enter the race again.

Find the gap
Take time out from your daily schedule to pay attention to yourself. Disconnect from responsibilities and reconnect to yourself. It will take discipline to make it happen, so choose a manageable chunk of time to begin, maybe a sweet 15 minutes. Choose a tidy spot in the house where you won’t be disturbed and lay down your mat. Sit on a cushion and start with three minutes of deep breathing. Be sure to soften your posture, breathing into the moment, breathing out to let go. Once your breathing is complete, spread yourself onto the mat and stretch in slow and deliberate movements. Move organically changing the shape of your body as you continue paying attention to the breath. Close your eyes to connect fully with the process and you will know when you’ve had enough. After a good stretch, finish on your back and surrender fully to deep rest. Let go and enjoy. Once you feel complete, return to a new moment and get on with your day.

Your attitude
Keep it organic and you might find the 15-minute practice lengthening in time. Have no expectation nor judgement, just encourage the habit, and be kind to yourself. Breathing deeply will balance your moods, stretching your body will reduce tension and aid flexibility and deep rest will boost immunity. These three together will reduce stress, enhance health and reset your body systems, ready to embrace the day with a deeper sense of joy and achievement. This is not about solving life’s problems; it’s about managing life more effectively to bring back the joy, even for a brief and singular moment. Over time, the benefits will deepen and you may begin to thrive again. Feel inspired? Go find a space, and give it a go, the rest will take care of itself.

Siri Arti is the founder of Starchild Yoga, which runs teacher trainings and workshops in the UK and overseas (starchildyoga.org)

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