As our Taos community adapts to life during a pandemic, most of our educational opportunities and social interactions have moved online. Now is a necessary time to create a balance between our virtual and present experiences.
Try some new approaches to coping with virtual learning in the comfort of your own home. These techniques work for students and can also apply to anyone using electronics for long periods. All of these activities give your eyes a chance to rest and creates locomotion throughout your body.
Try this "elephant breath" technique if you feel stuck, sleepy or need a good laugh. Stand with your feet wide apart and let your arms dangle in front of your body like an elephant's trunk. Inhale deeply through your nose while raising your arms high above your head. Then slowly swing your arms down again as you breathe out through your mouth. Elephant sounds are optional and encouraged.
The five senses
Try switching your perspective if you are feeling overwhelmed or if you "can't turn your brain off." Focus on your senses and notice five things you see, four things you hear, three things you feel, two things you smell and one thing you taste. Try to maintain slow and intentional breathing while scanning your environment.
Slow motion sit to stand
Try this if it's time to take a break and correct your posture. Tuck your chin towards your chest and roll down vertebra by vertebra, reaching your fingers for your toes. Shake your head yes, shake your head no, and then roll up vertebra by vertebra until you return to a standing position. Try bending your knees as you roll up and roll down to ease the strain in your lower back.
Retire or tree pose
Depending on your terminology, try exploring this balancing exercise meant to refocus your brain and strengthen your body. Bring your toes either to your ankle or space above/below your supporting legs knee. For retire, point your toes; for tree pose, relax your foot on your supporting leg.
Grab a buddy in your household and try this movement exercise. Face each other and pick one person to lead and the second person to follow. The leader creates movements, and the follower mirrors the trends as they are being expressed. Make sure to change roles and open conversations about how you moved your body and why.
We all need strategies for coping during a pandemic. The more we can lessen the stress on our bodies and minds, the stronger we will be. Step away from your screens and rely on your breath and physical body to help reduce wear and tear on your eyes, your physical body and, most importantly, your emotional health.
Kathleen Martin is a retired ballerina, active yoga instructor and director of the Academy of Performing Arts.