Video: Yoga Soothing for Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Speaker: Kim Cox

Hi there. My name is Kim Cox. I'm so grateful to be here today to spend time with you all. I think it's so awesome that Dallas College creates this mental wellness symposium. And I feel really honored and grateful to be a part of it. I'm a little bit of a background on me. I am a yoga therapist. I also am a somatic experiencing practitioner. And I'm coming to you all the way from Larkspur, Colorado, where I do quite a bit of work with nature collaboration. This is a time in history where mental wellness is of utmost importance. We’re feeling out of control, we're feeling stressed and anxious to some degree, this has been very traumatic on all of us, what we're going through in 2020. And I'm hoping that I can I’ve a little bit of education, do some experiential exercises with you today, some gentle movement and breath work. And then I'd really love to end woman, a downregulated meditation at the very end. So super happy to be with you. I'd like to just start with a little bit of education on the breath. If you look at a baby breathe, or even a dog or a cat or any type of animal. The natural movement and progression of their breath is a full torso, breath. You see them breathing from every part of their torso. That was how we were created to breed. Unfortunately, as we move through life, as we age, through sickness and illness, trauma, anxiety, stress, even depression are breath changes and it becomes very shallow, very short, and very much inhalation focused.

So, I'd like us just to do a little bit of an exercise with with each other to start today with just a basic breath inquiry. So, I'll invite you to come into a really comfortable position of seated. You also can lay down you. It would be great if you're in a seated position to have a nice upright posture. So, you could put blankets underneath you. If you are a yoga practitioners, sometimes you might have blocks are ready. I really wanna just provide a nice upright posture in a seated position. Of course, know that you can lay down at any time if that feels more comfortable. And to begin, I'd like us to do three deep releasing breaths together. So, a releasing breath is a big inhale in through the nose and an open mouth exhale. I'll demonstrate for you. So, let's do a few of those together. Take a nice deep inhale in through your nose and a nice long exhale out your mouth. Will do two more in your own time, your own rhythm. Now, if it feels comfortable, gently close your lips. They're just slightly touching one another. And continue to a nice deep inhale, exhale with just the breath coming in and out of your nose. So, it’s a gentle breath in through the nose. And a gentle breath out. And for a moment, just get in tune with the rhythm that feels nice to you. It would be totally appropriate for you to close your eyes to be able to kinda get in sync with your body a little bit more. Or the eyes can be totally open.

Whatever feels the best. We're just going to spend a couple more moments getting comfortable in the rhythm of the inhale and the exhale. Now while we're in this inquiry, I'd like you to start going deeper into understanding your natural breath. And I'll ask you a few questions as we continue to breathe deeply in through the nose and out of the nose. The nostril breath is hugely important. For one, it, it's a filter for pollutants and bacteria. We also get 15% more oxygen through our system by breathing only in and out of the nose. And certain neuronal responses re activated through this nostril breathing. So just spend a couple more moments breathing deeply in and out of the nose. And I'd like you to see if you have any awareness between the effective the inhale and exhale like what you are sensing in the inhalation and the exhalation. Maybe noticing if the inhale feels more comfortable than the exhale or vice versa. There's no right answer to this. It's all completely correct. And it's almost as if we're just an innocent bystander listening to the quality of our breath. No judgment, no processing, just observing. And then maybe begin to notice if you are aware of any jumps or places where the breath might feel stuck or jagged? And just be aware of that. And then maybe noticing where the body responds to the breath. Is your breathing deeply in through the nose and out through the nose? Where do you see the body responding? It might be in the neck, the collarbones, shoulders, chest, lower belly, all of it is correct. Paying attention, with just a gentle curiosity. And then with some of those things that we might have become aware of through the inquiry.

We're gonna see if we can shift some things. So, I'd like you to try to breathe a little fuller and richer in the inhale as well as the exhale. So, we're purposely manipulating and adding to the breath a little bit more expansion, inhalation and a little bit more expansion in the exhalation. And a gentle awareness, on a possibility of shifting or changing. Maybe noticing how things have evolved a little bit since first beginning the inquiry. We'll stay here for just a little bit longer with the intention of expansion in both sides of the breath. The inhale and exhale. And if your eyes were closed slowly come back to opening them. Maybe gently looking around the room and coming into a little bit more orientation into the shape in space that you're at. Maybe some subtle movements in your fingers and your toes or maybe some rocking back and forth. If you're lying down, you could gently come back into a comfortable seated position. And really what I'm hoping that you sensed in just those few short moments of breath inquiry is a gentle down-regulation, a gentle calming, a gentle or firmer kind of foundation or grounded sense in however you were seated or lying down. So, the cool thing of what I wanted you to realize is the breath, the respiratory system is the only system in our body that we can actually manipulate. The breath goes along all day long in an involuntary manner where we don't have to think about it. We don't have to tell it anything to do. It naturally breathes air in and naturally breathes air out. Yet, it is the one system that we can actually manipulate to change our energetic effects. So once we get really good at this and we become more aware it, this, it actually brings us a sense of hope that whatever we're dealing with on an energetic or an emotional level, with the use of the breath.

We can shift it; we can change it. And I'm gonna just... we'll experience it in a moment as we practice it. But first I'd like to just educate a little bit more. The respiratory system is directly linked to our nervous system. So, we know that we have in our autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system. That's our fight or flight. And then we also have the parasympathetic nervous system that's our rest and digest our calming. In sympathetic side of the nervous system. We know that's fight or flight, that's arousal. It's a beautiful side of the nervous system that gets us out of danger. It's the side of the nervous system where there's action and movement and moving into greater safety. And then the parasympathetic nervous system is a sense of calm. It's a sense of rest. Its where internal organs rejuvenate, go back into a sense of stillness and equanimity. The problem with our nervous system is, we are most times in turned on into sympathetic nervous system. We're in usual fight, flight or freeze. And we get stuck in that, that begins, that becomes our modality 247. It's even happening in our sleep. We grind their teeth at night, we're up a lot. We're not getting that deep REM sleep anymore. And again, it's not that the sympathetic is bad. In the parasympathetic is good. It's that it was meant to be in an equal level. That one gets raised a little bit and then very quickly after that, the other one comes in to reset. And it's kinda this fluctuation as it moves. Unfortunately, in today's time and us feeling out of control, we're dealing with trauma, we're dealing with quite a bit of stress and anxiety. That sympathetic nervous system is turned on, on a continual basis.

So back to how the respiratory system is in conjunction with the nervous system. The inhalation breath is associated with the, sympathetic site of the nervous system. The exhale site of the breath is the parasympathetic side of the nervous system. So, as I was having you do that basic breath inquiry, chances are for many of you, the inhalation was more comfortable. That's because we're in that fight or flight often. But unfortunately, the inhalation probably wasn't necessarily really deep and flowing. It was probably nose to collarbone, nose to chest. Whereas we were meant to breathe in our full body, that full torso breath like we see in babies and we see in cats and dogs and other animals. That parasympathetic side of the nervous system is a short associated with the exhalation. Maybe some of you felt really comfortable in that exhale breath. Oftentimes people that are healers or social workers or service-related professions and focus in their daily life. They're very much into giving and that's kinda the parasympathetic side of the breath. Remember that neither of them are bad, but we just don't want to get stuck into either side. So I'd like to give us a little bit of experiential in the extension of the exhalation so that we can try to calm down that hyper arousal in sympathetic nervous system that stress that fight flight or freeze that over activation and arousal. So, let's practice that now.

 I'd like you to come back into that comfortable seated position. You can also lie down for sure. And I'd like us to come back into that inward focus, possibly aiding and facilitating in that is by closing your eyes. And we'll take a moment again to just be in tune with our breath. Just noticing inhalation, noticing the exhalation without any judgment, without any processing. Lips are gently close and again, we're breathing in and out of the nose. At any time that doesn't be become comfortable, you can also open your mouth. And let's take a moment where we were just a few moments ago in expansion through both sides. So, we're going to expand the inhalation as well as the exhalation. And you might begin to hear the breath a little bit more through the throat. You might be able to feel the breath a little bit more. Maybe noticing the whole torso moving with the breath, not just the collarbones and throat, but the chest, the lower belly. Activating those primary muscles of the respiratory system in the diaphragm. And just for the experience in this exercise, I like to see if you can put a little bit more intention, a little bit more expansion into just the exhale side of the breath. Noticing the exhale get a little bit richer, fuller, longer, more expansive. Taking our time with the breath. And if that seems to be comfortable and expansion of the exhalation, once all the air is out on the exhale side. See if you can pause and hold the breath for just one or two counts, before the need to inhale arises. Taking your time. We're expanding through the exhalation and then possibly pausing and holding for just one or two counts at the end of that breath before the need for inhale comes.

Basically, we're activating the parasympathetic side of the nervous. We're bringing some activation into the rest and digest side. Slowly bringing manipulation back into grounded-ness, calm, a sense of well-being. Just a few more breaths like this. After you finish the next round of the exhale. Return back to that sense of allowing the breath, to do everything it wants to do without us manipulating it is coming back to an ice, easy even breath without telling it what to do. The breaths going back into that involuntary state. Let's pause for just a moment to notice how we feel now. Hopefully from the moment we sat down at the beginning of this session to now, things have shifted. Maybe the nervous system has come back into greater balance. Maybe those constant, excessive ruminations of the mind have been stilled. And hopefully we feel a little bit more clarity and a little bit more calm. A little bit more sense of roundedness. Nice, and you can gently open your eyes and reorient back into your space. Maybe bring some gentle rocking back and forth, some movement in your fingers and your toes. Yeah, awesome. So, the really cool thing about what you just did instead, what you're learning in this session is you can evolve this into the life of the clients and the people that you work with. So oftentimes by me just giving a little bit of homework to my clients, doing breath inquiry. And that basic experiential feeling of expansion of the exhalation side of the breath gives a huge amount of hope that they're able to change their circumstances.

They're able to have a little bit more control over their life. Many of the people that come to me are in their kind of last-ditch effort. They've seen many medical providers, many different therapists. They'd been on many, many different Western prescriptions for whatever is ailing them. And they've lost hope. They've felt even greater lack of control in their own system. And just buy them practicing five minutes a day and you practicing five minutes a day, you can hugely change how you feel energetically, emotionally, and it really doesn't take much. What happens is you become very aware of your breathe. You get very good at implementing that exhalation and very proficient at calming things down. It can be done at any circumstances at any time it can be done while you're sitting in traffic in your car. It can be done at the grocery store where you're waiting behind someone who has 200 coupons. I mean, fill in the blank. We live in a life of stress right now. And so, you can activate this at any given time. And most oftentimes the people around you will not even know that you're doing anything different. So hugely helpful and hopeful for your own self and the people around you. Okay, so I'm hoping that that was really great. I think all my contact information is also on with this I'm offering and so feel very free to connect with me at any time. I'd like to move a little bit into movement, just some real gentle movement. These are movements that you, many of the movements I am going to teach you in the next bit are movements you could do in a chair seated at your desk, seated at your therapy room. They're really accessible to all shapes and sizes. And so, I'd like to move into that. And we're going to incorporate the breath that we've been doing the entire time. And one note I'd like to make that I kind of forgot in our breath inquiry is when we get that vibrational sense in the back of our throat when we're doing the nostril breathing in hearing and sensing that vibration, we are actually stimulating the vagus, the nerve.

We know that the vagus nerve goes from the crown of our head, in our cranial, touches upon almost every single internal organ. And when it is activated in stimulated, it activates the parasympathetic side of the nervous system. It gives us a higher vagal tone. So by dealing that nostril breath, by focusing on the vibration and the sensation in the back of the throat. We're getting that activation in the parasympathetic side through the vagus nerve. I wanted to make sure that I told you that because everything I do is based on science. And so, when we do these techniques, your body and your nervous system has no choice but to respond in what you're asking it to do, which is another kind of sense of hope. So, I'm gonna move back on my mat just a little bit, but I'm going to stay in a comfortable seated position. And know that you can add a block at any time underneath your seat if that seems to feel better. And I'm just going to center myself on both of my sit’s bones. So, whether you're sitting on the ground or sitting in a chair, upright, this works. But I want to feel even distribution in my sits bone. So, it's kinda bony bones at the very base of your torso. And when you're sitting on a hard surface, you feel. I'd like to close my eyes again, if that feels comfortable to you. And then I'm gonna come back to that breath awareness. My lips are gently closed and I'm just noticing a full breath on the inhale as well as the exhale. It's gonna be nice and easy. And even for this exercise, my hands are gently resting on my knees. And again, I'm going to spend just a few moments of becoming aware, right where I'm at. I'm going to add some gentle movement. I'm just gonna do some rocking in a nice circular shape. There's really no right or wrong to any of this. Just pick a direction. And it's nice and gentle, I'm not feeling the need to go into full range of motion. Nice and easy here. And I might have some awareness of the inhale being one half of the movement and the exhale being the other.

So, I'm actually syncing my breath to the movement. And I'm going to switch directions. Same thing, inhaling half of it, exhaling the other. And I'm going to check-in if there's any way to slow down just a little bit with this movement. I'll come back into the center feeling those sits bones grounded again on the inhale. I'm going to lengthen my breastbone forward broadening through my collar bone. With a nice straight back. My eye gaze is looking down. So, I'm keeping my cervical spine, my neck in a nice straight line from my backbone. And then on the exhale I'll bringing my eye gaze to my navel and gently pull back with a rounded spine. So, let's do that again. Inhale, lengthen, forward get a long, straight back and then exhale slowly, round through it. No customize the movement and the timing to your breath. So, slow it down to where when you need the inhale or the exhale, that initiates the next movement. We'll just do a few more. We'll gently come back to the top. Center yourself again, if you've lost that. We'll place the right hand right next to the right thigh. And then the left arm will go straight up to the sky. Try and relax your left shoulder away from your ear. And we'll move into a lateral. But before we do that, feel both bones, both butt cheeks, gently touching evenly the on-the-ground. On the inhale lift up, and on the exhale slowly come over for a lateral stretch. We're keeping our under arm nice and open so as not to move into a twist. We should feel all the stretch of the movement on this left side of the body. breathing out, taking a moment to ground down to the left side of the Tush and then lift up to the underarm and the fingertips. Now check into your breath, chances are the breath is increased a little bit. Chances are you might even be holding your breath.

So, come back into that breath awareness as we breathe deeply in and out of the nose, drawing down through the tush as we lift up out of the side. Nice and we'll come back up to the top center yourself again, the left-hand, we'll come back, the right arm will lift up. Take a moment to center yourself. Inhale lift up through that right side. And then exhale gently, move over to the left, keeping the under arm open, a nice grounding sensation down through the Tush and a penning through the upper body. Continue to breathe and we'll gently bring it back up to the top. Chances are you're feeling a really nice energy and activation. Lateral movement is a sympathetic nervous system activator. And so, you might feel a little revved up, which is really fabulous because in our functional movement we don't move in a lateral way. Really great for the tonification of our internal organs. So, let's move into a twist we'll take an inhale as the left-hand reaches over for the right knee, the right hands back behind the body. I'm going to lift up the inhale broaden my collarbones and move into just 25% of that twist. I have much more movement to go, but I'm just taking the easy. So, my spine can warm up. inhale again, lift up. Gently move maybe 25% more into this stretch, taking our time. And we'll do it one more time. Inhale, lift up, and twist so you are not a 100%. We're just backing off from full twist motion. Notice your breath again, it might have tightened and restricted. You might even be holding it, breathing some fullness back into that nostril breathing. Now maintain the torso twist, but just bring your eye gaze and your head over to your left shoulder and then gently tuck your chin.

You're gonna get a beautiful stretch to that cervical spine. So, my ribs are still twisting to the opposite side as my eye gaze is over my left shoulder. Continue to breathe. And then we'll gently release. Let's take the other side. The right hand will come over to the left knee, the left-hand back behind. Inhale, lift up through the breastbone, broaden those collarbones and we'll move gently move into a 25% movement of the spine. Continually breathing in and out of the nose. Inhale, lift up one more time, will move a little bit more into it. We're about 50%. And let's do one more inhale lift up. Exhale, maybe the eye-gaze is looking over the left shoulder. Hold here, breathe here. Now slowly move your head and your eye-gaze and your chin over to the right shoulder. And gently tuck the chin. Still maintaining the twist. And we're getting a really beautiful stretch through our spine. And we'll slowly release. Nice! Inhale lift those arms all the way up. Exhale reach forward with a straight back, try not to round through the shoulder blades, press the pads of your fingers down on the ground. They also could go onto some books or block, broaden the collarbones as you breathe in exhale coming forward, not so much in a rounded position, but a nice straight back check that your eye-gaze is looking down. So, we have a nice straight spine. Hoping that you're feeling a really nice broadening and fullness stretch on the back of the sacroiliac joint that's on the base of your spine and your Tush.

 We're just kind of opening up the muscles of the gluteal. If there's any more room, you can walk forward trying to maintain a straight back without kind of rounding down to the stretch, you want to lift through our breastbone. Nice! And then slowly come back to the top. Alright, let's come into a box shape. This would be a really easy thing to do in any room. You can also place blankets under the knees if it doesn't feel really comfortable here, drop your head, just move in a nice rhythm that feels good to you. Maybe circles, maybe figure eights, maybe forward, backward, just a gentle rhythm as we rock back and forth. We still have our lips closed and we're breathing in that nice full inhale, exhale breath, hearing it, and sensing it. And we'll come back into neutral, our hands are right underneath our shoulders are knees are underneath our hips. On the inhale will curl our toes under to stretch the underside of our feet. Drop our belly, look forward. And then on the exit we'll let the toes drop as we round into a cat spine. We'll do it again, inhale. Exhale. Feel more like this. This is dynamic movement where we link the breath to the loop. Inhale, broadening the chest to collarbones, exhale, draw, navel to back bone, one more time. And then gently coming back to child's pose. Lots of different varieties. You can grab a blanket to bring back underneath your knees if that doesn't feel comfortable to your knees and head. It can be rolled even more to lift you higher up. You could also bring a block underneath your forehead. And in this shape, gently rock back and forth, move side to side. And then we'll slowly come back in the box shape. And then I'd like you too gently stand up. And we'll find ourselves in a mountain position, anatomically open with our palms facing forward.

Our feet are stacking right underneath our hips. Shoulder blades are gliding back. And let's just pause for a moment and notice what it feels like just to be still. Maybe notice the sensations you feel through your breath. Maybe something you feel in your body. So, we're gonna move into sun salutations. You can bend your knees here; you don't have to go all the way down to the ground. This is a gentle movement that you can also do in a seated position, so you don't have to even be standing. But this is generally what it looks like. We'll take an inhale, as we lift our arms up, on the exhale we'll fold down to the ground. Bending knees, if you need to. Inhale, a flat back with our hands on our shins. Exhale, lower back down again. Then inhale, reach forward to rise all the way back up to the top and then exhale. Hands come to heart center. Let's do a few more like that, inhale, lift the arms up, exhale hear the breath coming out as you fold down to the ground. Inhale to a flat spine. Exhale, fold. Inhale reach forward to rise. And then the exhale to hands to heart. Now, moving your own rhythm without me prompting you. Inhaling and exhaling is removed through these sun salutations. If we were all in the same room together, we be moving at different paces. We all have a very different threshold of breath. So, honor, what it feels like for you to connect your breath to your movement and wait to move until you need to take the next breath. Now just do a couple more. When you find yourself back in that standing position, we'll send a few more breaths just being still. Pay attention to what you notice and sense and feel. Maybe it's noticing heat in the body. Maybe a gentle sweat. Maybe a vibrational energy that you might feel at your breastbone. Maybe a clarity in the mind. Nice. Now feel comfortable to come back down into a seated position. I'm going to be moving into meditation. So, it could also be awesome for you to be in a supine position lying flat on your back.

 I'll give you a couple of moments to get comfortable. I'd like you to make sure that nothing in the body and is telling you that it's uncomfortable or tight or strained or stressed. Sometimes it's really nice to have a blanket back behind your head or a pillow or cushion. If you have any lower back issues and you're lying down, it might feel really nice to put a cushion underneath your knees or a blanket underneath your knees. You might even wrap up in a blanket to feel a little bit more cozy or a little bit more comfortable. The meditation that I will be offering you is called interconnectedness. And so, as you're finding that comfortable position, make sure you kind of squirm around a little bit adjust if anything needs to be changed. And then once you feel in that comfortable position, take a moment to just close the eyes if that's okay. And allow yourself to rest. Allow yourself to just be in this space, in this moment. Maybe entering into a little bit of breath awareness. Again, paying attention to the inhalation and exhalation. And in this meditation, we won't be doing anything with the breath. We're not manipulating the breath in anyway; we're just allowing it to breathe as it naturally wants to. But I'm hoping through some of the work that we've briefly done together that you notice a calmer, smoother, more expansive breath. Less of that very jagged, short and shallow inhale breath that unfortunately we move into a habitual rhythm with most of the time during the day. So just staying connected with yourself with the intention of closing off any external distraction. Becoming more internally focused. I'd like you to begin to notice the air that touches your skin. The air that is touching parts of your body that aren't clothed. Maybe your hands or your feet or your face.

 Focusing on any part of the body that is exposed to the air. And then have a greater sense of that air touching your skin. Is it warm or is it cold? Is it moving or is it still? Begin to notice the air as it enters and leaves your body. Feel the colder, dry air entering your nose, down the throat, filling the lungs, and the warmer, moist air flowing in the opposite direction. Moving out of the body. For just a moment, experience the meeting of the body with the air. Both the internal and external. Air surrounds us intimately. We can feel it on our skin. We can feel at entering and leaving the body as we breathe. We experience it as the wind. We see it moving the clouds and the leaves of trees. We see it moving grasses and making waves on the surface of water. The same air is inside us and fills our lungs. It dissolves into the bloodstream and it enters every cell in the body. It keeps us alive. This air that we experience every second of our life enters us and flows through us. It's borrowed from the universe and returned to the universe after flowing through us. And this is true for the other elements as well. The earth element, every, everything solid within us is borrowed, and flows through us. The water element, the liquid within us flows through the body as we borrow it from the world. And the fire element, our energy also is borrowed and must be returned. So, we tend to think of ourselves as separate from the rest of the world, but reflecting in this way, we can see that we are intimately connected with the rest of creation. That we are invisibly connected to all living things. Part of the great cycle of the elements as we borrow and return the physical elements of earth, water, fire, and air. So, we can just be still following the movement of the breath as it flows in and out.

Appreciating a sense of interconnectedness. Appreciating ourselves as intimately connected with all of life. Stay close to your breath for a few more minutes in your own meditation. Paying attention to the deep inhale and exhale. If you get distracted, which is hugely possible. Just bring your attention and your focus and your awareness back to the movement of the breath. Gently begin to come into awareness of your shape in space, your body on your mat, your space on the floor or in a chair. Possibly take a nice big deep breath, maybe an acceleration out of the mouth. Bring some subtle and gentle movement back into your body by wiggling your fingers and your toes. And if you're lying in a supine position, go ahead and draw your knees into your chest. Give yourself a hug. Gently roll over to one side or the other and to that fetal position. And with your upper body strength, pressing on the earth to rise back into a seated position. Wherever you’re at, our palms are turned up on, our sides, will take a big inhale breath as we bring our hands down into the ground and we lift up all the way up above. On the exhale, we bring our hands to heart center reminding ourselves to lead with the heart and with deep respect and deep gratitude are so thankful for my time with you today.

I'd love to hear from all of you. I think my contact information will be on the page, but any feedback or questions or concerns or any aha moments of anything you noticed today. Practice these gentle, easy movements, the gentle breath awareness, the expansion of the exhalations and basic movement in getting vibrancy and activation in our spine. Incorporate some time to just be still and meditate. And hopefully these practices will bring you into greater mental wellness. Again, so thankful to be able to spend time with you. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to work with you, even just by this virtual realm. And I hope you have a fabulous day and really feel the effects of the basic things that we just practiced. Thank you so much!