By Nora Welch, Senior Leadership Development Associate at Joining Vision and Action
Although I’ve been practicing yoga for over a decade, I only started to be more dedicated over the past few years. My conclusion? I wish I had practiced more when I was working as a nonprofit professional.
I think about the times when my brain was ping-ponging from crucial to critical to urgent tasks, when I had stayed up late reconciling year-end financials and had multiple client meetings to facilitate the next day, and when our community suffered tough losses.
These were the times I could have used some grounding, some centering and some release. These were the very moments I would have benefitted from implementing some tools.
Pairing my past experiences serving children, youth and families with my recent training to become a yoga instructor, I’m hoping to provide tools (or in this case, yoga poses) for you to use in your own moments of need!
Quick note: I am including the Sanskrit names for each of the poses (asanas), because that is the only way to truly know which pose is intended. (Teachers and studios across the globe can have different variations of terms.) If you haven’t heard these before, they can be a little startling to the ear. A friend shared this YouTube video of a man trying advanced yoga and sharing his interpretations of the instructions. One of my favorite examples: She said Ardha Hanumanasana, and he heard “Artemis is an astronaut.” So, English versions are included, too!
Mountain pose (Tadasana)
This posture reminds me of the power and depths of simplicity. If you look at someone in mountain pose, it looks like they are just standing there—and they kind of are—but there is more than meets the eye. This pose is also the foundation of many others. When you truly and fully engage with this pose, you can feel a tremendous pattern of vibrant energy, sturdiness and calm.
Getting there: Stand up. All 10 toes pointing forward, bring your feet together, with big toes touching and heels apart, or feel free to take a little wider stance. Arms are by your side, palms facing forward. Soften your shoulders down your back. Head lifts. Breathe.
Being there: If it feels comfortable for you, close your eyes. Keep breathing. Notice your feet a little more than before. Ground down through all 10 toes and the pads of your feet. Feel energetic roots extend from your feet into the floor, stabilizing you through whatever winds of change or stormy weather may come your way. Keep grounding down through your legs, your pelvis, your trunk. Arrive at your shoulders. Feel length across your collarbone, as your shoulders continue to release—releasing the weight on your shoulders of carrying your program, your clients, your community. Lift through the crown (top of) your head. You remain upright, unmoved and standing beautifully in your truth and purpose. Breathe.
Feel free to stay here and connect to your intention as long as you like.
Chair pose (Utkatasana)
This posture reminds me of the deep well of grit and determination inside of us all. If you’ve been in a yoga studio before, you’ve probably been in chair pose … and probably for a little longer than you would have liked! If you’re looking to get out of a slump and infuse a little more feeling of action, give this pose a try.
Getting there: From mountain pose, inhale your arms overhead, pinkie fingers turned slightly inward. Relax your shoulders out of your ears. Engage your core. Bending at the knees, draw your hips back, shifting your weight into your heels. Neutralize your pelvis. (This means you’re somewhere between donning duck butt and looking like Steve Urkel—shout out to my ’80s babies!) Sink a little lower. Reach a little higher. Breathe.
Being there: This is a great opportunity to find a drishti, or a point of focus. I like to do this both literally (that smudge on the wall) and metaphorically (your commitment to making a difference). Anchor into your reason for pushing through and sticking with the pose … or situation you’re facing. Keep breathing. Go a little deeper and remind yourself you’re stronger than you know. Keep the lift in your arms yet keep your shoulders out of your ears. One more breath in and out. You can do this. Rise to standing.
I’m really digging the pairing of this pose with the song, “Don’t Give Up on Me.” If you haven’t heard it yet, check out this sweet collaboration created by Andy Grammer and PS22, a public elementary school in Staten Island, New York. Start in mountain pose for a couple of breaths and then sink down into chair pose through the chorus. Rinse and repeat.
Final resting pose (Savasana)
This posture reminds me of the importance of truly resting and releasing. For all of us, and especially those of us who give and care an extraordinary amount, giving yourself time to recuperate becomes a must-do activity.
Getting there: Find a spot on the floor that allows you to lie on your back with legs straight out. (Feel free to bend your knees if that feels better on your lower back.) Arms are by your side, palms face up. Cultivate calm and silence. Breathe.
Being there: Let the floor hold you. You hold up others all day long; let yourself be held. Scan your body and find the nooks and crannies hiding things you’re still holding onto—maybe an inconsiderate word or an innocent mistake. Let them go. Release tension in your face, your neck, your back, your feet. Allow yourself to be still. Allow yourself to have this moment of rest and recovery. Know you’ll get back to everything else that needs to get done, but not right now. Now, you breathe and release. Breathe and release. Breathe.
Feel free to stay here as long as you’re able. Set a timer on your phone so that you can know you won’t drift off and miss your next meeting. Use your office, find a conference room or some other spot to be able to close the door and be undisturbed. You can help protect your space and be kind to your colleagues by placing a “back and available in XX minutes” sticky note on the outside.
Bottom line: Any type of movement is good movement
Whether it’s these or other yoga poses, CrossFit, pickle ball, walking or whatever else you fancy, please take time to engage and reconnect with yourself. It’s important for you and for the amazing work you contribute.
Have a favorite pose you love to BE in? I’d love to hear from you. Give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org!