In honor of all caregivers who take the time to enrich the life of another with their kindness, compassion, and deep love.
As a caregiver, you are entrusted with loving and caring for the wellbeing of another human being. Many of us find ourselves devoted to a loved one who is suffering from a significant illness, disability, or serious injury. One of the consequences of caring for others is we neglect our own self-care. Caregiving can be physically and mentally fatiguing. How can we transform feelings of heartbreak and desperation into a meaningful life experience?
An effective way to cope with the stress, mental drain, anxiety, frustration, depression, or sadness is to use techniques and insights of yoga. Yoga is about carving out any amount of time for you to bring love, peace, and presence into your life. A little yoga goes a long way towards refreshing the body, mind, and heart.
First: Renewing The Body
The yoga practice will help you to connect to your body’s physical needs. You can make your health a priority. With the many time constraints, self-care during caregiving looks different. In a very short yoga practice you can pinpoint where you are feeling inadequacies in your body, such as low back pain, tense shoulders, insomnia, or sluggishness. A 5-minute yoga practice will do wonders in making you feel integrated once again. When our bodies are revitalized we can function on a higher level in all aspects of caretaking.
Second: Quieting The Mind
Even the most distracted mind will become calm after a few minutes of breath practice. A clear and calm mind will improve your decision making process when times are tough.
Third: Healing The Heart
Rekindle compassion for your own heart. If we can’t find joy and compassion for ourselves, we will never find it for anyone one else. Keeping an open communication line with your heart creates a safe space for the tears to come when the intensity of caretaking is too much to bear. A heart filled with gratitude and joy improves our source of connection with all of those around us.
Here’s how you can easily make this a part of your day…
If You Only Have 1 Minute…
For Your Body
- Simply rub your palms together and create heat between your hands.
- Delicately place the warmth of your palms over your eyes, on the back of your neck, shoulders, and heart, or anywhere on your physical body.
- Promote calm by placing one hand over your forehead and one hand to the back of your head.
- Self-treat anger, especially if angry words were spoken, by placing your hands around your throat. Heels of hands touch the front, fingertips curl around the back. Meet the hands at your heart. This will help you open your heart and release the ill-tempered feelings.
- Let go of any effort, so the body is free to receive the comfort of your breath and the warmth of your hands.
- Relax your face, relax your tongue, relax your belly.
Shoulder Shrugs & Shoulder Rolls:
- Inhale: Shrug both shoulders up to your ears.
- Exhale: Release with an audible sigh out.
- Repeat 3 times.
- Bend both elbows and place fingertips to shoulders.
- Circle shoulders in both directions.
- Repeat 6 times.
- Inhale: Open elbows out to the side.
- Exhale: Bring elbows to center to touch, and drop chin to chest.
- Repeat 6 times.
- Completely relax neck and shoulders.
For Your Mind
OM, The Sound of the Universe:
- Sit in a comfortable position. Eyes closed.
- Start by stopping for a moment, and notice your breath.
- Allow your breath to soften and broaden.
- OM silently to yourself...
- Inhale: Om-1 Om-2 Om-3 Om-4
- Exhale: Om-1 Om-2 Om-3 Om-4
- Continue until concerns melt away, and the mantra of OM gently fades away.
- Sit and rest in the vibration.
For Your Heart
- Place palms in prayer in front of your heart, calling in compassion and love, for today be humble.
- I quiet my mind with a deep and stilling breath.
- Rest your awareness on the breath.
- A moment of gratitude for all the ways I have shown up today, when perhaps, at times I may have been tempted to run away. May I recognize small moments of joy. May I receive the peace in my heart that I might better serve and bless this life I have been called upon to care for. With gratitude of life most sacred. Thank you.
If You Only Have 5 Minutes…
For Your Body
Mountain Pose (Upavistha Tadasana):
Standing or seated Repeat 6 times
- Inhale and exhale slow deep breaths.
- Raise your arms out to your sides and reach up overhead. Palms face one another.
- Add side bends. Alternate twice on each side.
- Return palms in a devotional position in front of your heart. A reminder of the here and now. Ask for guidance, strength and gratitude.
From tabletop position
- Take your knees wide to the side, big toes touching.
- Slide your buttocks towards your heels, and fold upper body onto your thighs.
- Rest your forehead on a towel or blanket.
- Extend arms in front of you or rest your arms with palms up alongside your legs.
- Relax with a sense of nurturing the body with your breath: each cycle of your breath totally unique.
- Release by returning to tabletop position, to seated. Lovingly return to the space of your heart. Enjoy your time resting. In this moment take care of yourself. You need a break.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana):
A wonderful way to connect with aiming higher and to believe in ourselves.
- Stand with your feet together, shins together, knees together.
- Arms can extend in front of you or reach overhead.
- Inhale and as you exhale slowly lower your body into a squat position.
- Return to standing position.
This pose is very versatile. It can be done seated in a chair, standing, or on all fours in a tabletop position.
- Inhale: Full, but easy breath. Slowly raise head and tailbone.
- Exhale: Round and arch your back.
- Continue alternating your spine like a gentle wave.
Venting is a way to take care of yourself. Whenever you need to vent or let it out, a few rounds of Lion’s Breath will help release the tension.
- Add Lion’s Breath: Inhale and as you exhale open your mouth and stick out your tongue as far as it will go.
For Your Mind
Relaxing Breath 4-7-8:
When things feel out of control, try this tranquilizing breath exercise. This technique includes three phases: Inhalation,retention,exhalation.
- Sit with your back straight and your feet on the floor.
- Begin by placing the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, just behind your upper teeth. Keep it in this position the whole time. Your mouth will remain open during the exhalation.
- Slowly and quietly inhale through your nose to a mental count of 4.
- Hold your breath for 7 counts.
- Open your mouth to exhale, making a whooshing sound for 8 counts. Blow all the air out, to a complete exhalation.
- Repeat this cycle four to six times. Pause and notice any shift. Notice how you feel now. A moment to simply rest inside yourself filled with profound love and peace.
For Your Heart
Meditation For Caregivers
Caregiving can be tough. This meditation uses the sentiment “This too shall pass.”
- Sit in a posture of your choice. You may want to lie back. Whatever your body is asking for.
- Gently arrive. Lower or close your eyes. A sense of softening. A sense of balance in both sides of your body.
- Notice anything within yourself, anything that isn't meeting the way you would like things to be. Notice what your response is to that.
- Acknowledge everything that exists in this moment, not to deny or shut it off. In your mind’s eye is there something that is hard to accept? A challenge? Is there some way to open and surrender a little bit to how things are…
Focus on the sentiment: This too shall pass.
With each word, touch each finger pad with your thumb.
Inhale and exhale. Slow down your breathing and let all muscles relax.
Repeating silently: This too shall pass.
What if I commit to live with imperfection and just be the best I can, of service, not accolades or rewards.
To live a life of meaning.
I settle into a place of such calm.
A place of such peace. A place of such grace.
In this place I am all that I was ever meant to be.
With this grace I am not my mistakes.
With this grace I am not my failures.
Moment to moment. Breath by breath.
This too shall pass.
Embrace your breath.
As a caregiver I know forgiveness is ever present, an ongoing process.
Because we forgive, we are taking care of ourselves.
I breathe again, experiencing profound healing in every cell of my body. I am more than enough.
Peace is what we receive when we forgive.
May I learn to support, to listen, to understand.
May I learn from love.
May I use what I learn to nurture the life of this person I am caring for.
In this place of grace, I am a part of all that is.
Continue breathing with awareness on the flow of breath. The flow of life.
And most of all focusing on the precious gift of this courageous endeavor, this call to love.
Conclude by breathing deeply again.
May the two of us find rest, an end of suffering.
A haven of peace for both of us.
Breathe in: Grace washes over me...This too shall pass.
Exhale out: any words, thoughts, or actions from the past.
Let it fall away...This too shall pass.
Light as you breathe...feel light coming in and out.
Feel love in your heart.
With this light and love I am new again.
It is from this place of love and peace that will take me back into the world.
To see miracles, and sometimes we are the miracle.
To connect with those I love, as closely as I can.
To allow all people I encounter to know this part of me, especially the person I am caring for.
Open your eyes, soften the view.
I begin again in love. To live a life of meaning. Namaste.