The wise and calming Suzy Reading joined us live on Instagram this weekend to read an extract from her new book, Self-care for Tough Times: How to Heal in Times of Anxiety, Loss and Change. Chartered psychologist, yoga teacher and mother Suzy is passionate about empowering people to build their own self-care toolkit so they can become their own safe space during challenging times. Here Suzy shares an extract from her new book with us:
Getting to Know Your Emotions
Emotions may be a mental categorization but they originate from physical sensations in the body, so to notice and feel your emotions, you need to connect with your body. Developing this awareness will help you manage and respond to your emotions. These practices build on the body connection we developed in the stress chapter. Using touch and movement to connect with your body. Another way to deepen your awareness of your body is using touch. Bodywork, like massage or acupuncture can be powerful and with such a variety of modalities, there will be something that resonates for you. You can also engage in it yourself by simply massaging in lotion, using the massage techniques from the stress chapter or directing the flow of your shower to connect with different parts of your body.
Morning Sequence – to Connect, Release & Energise
1. Standing check in: just notice how it feels to be standing, scanning your body and taking in what you sense. Don’t worry if you don’t notice much to begin with – sometimes you need to move and stretch to awaken awareness.
2. Mountain breath: stand tall with your feet hip width apart. As you breathe in, reach your arms out wide and up overhead, palms touching and looking up to lift your mood. As you exhale, bring your hands down through the centre line of your body, in prayer position, bringing the energy toward your heart. Repeat six times.
3. Shoulder rolls: fingertips on shoulders, breathe in and circle your elbows forward and upwards, exhaling to take your elbows back and down. Six repetitions.
4. Chest and upper back release: breathe in and interlace your hands behind your back, looking up, opening your chest. Breathe out, reaching your arms forward as if you are hugging a tree and round your spine, chin to chest. Alternate between these shapes six times.
5. Standing twist: feet shoulder width apart, swing your arms and hips round to your right, looking over your right shoulder and let your left heel lift to allow a fuller twist through your spine, swing to the left and let your right heel lift. Repeat this fluid, floppy action, letting go of any sense of effort, six times each way.
6. Forward bend against a wall: release your spine and legs with this supported forward bend. Stand with your back against the wall and your feet slightly away from the wall. Bend your knees generously and lean your lower back into the wall while you drape your spine forward along your thighs, head and hands dangling toward the floor. Flop and drop here for five to ten breaths before very slowly returning to upright.
7. Standing check in: notice now any sensations or emotional tones. Do you feel more connected with your body having moved and stretched? Does your body feel different from how it was before? You might like to pause here for a few breaths and use the mantra: ‘I feel the energy circulating around my body’.
Evening Sequence – to Connect, Release & Calm
1. Come to all fours and notice how your body feels here and now. Sway your hips from side to side several times, then turn the sway into a circle of your hips around your knees, six times one way, feeling this oil the hip joint, then change direction.
2. Wide child’s pose: take your knees wide apart, big toes touching, sink your bottom to your heels, chest, forearms and forehead toward the floor. Let your forehead rest on the floor or fold your hands or make a fist to provide support. Soften and drop, feeling how it is to be in this shape.
3. Swimming child’s pose: from the shape above, as you breathe in, sweep your right arm back behind you and rise to all fours with your right arm arcing up and over like front crawl. Exhale back to wide child’s pose. As you breathe in, take your left arm back behind you and rise again to all fours with the left arm swimming up and over. Repeat six times each side, allowing your chest to turn with the movement and watching your hand with your gaze. Feel this open the side body and immerse yourself in the sensation of moving in time with your breath
4. Down dog: from all fours, tuck your toes under, raise your hips up and press your heels back and down, coming into an upside-down ‘V’ shape. Your legs needn’t be straight, the priority is a long spine. Hold for five to ten breaths, connecting with the sensations of this pose. Return to wide child’s pose to rest and refresh.
5. Thread the needle: from a wide-knee child’s pose, lift up to all fours. Breathe in, raise your right arm skywards and look up. Exhale and thread your right arm underneath your left, along the floor, taking your right ear to the floor. Repeat six times before changing sides.
6. Rest in a shape of your choosing – child’s pose, on your tummy, on your back, and observe how you feel now, any sensation or emotion. Mantra: ‘the energy of the universe supports and protects me’.
Self-Care for Tough Times is available to buy as an e-book from the 20th April here.