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This week many children went back to school after months at home, and there were so many touching posts written by nervous parents on Facebook and Twitter asking for advice and reassurance. Will the kids be safe back at school? Will my baby settle back into nursery or preschool after so much time off? And how will I manage without them?
One thing’s for sure, it’s probably been quite the week for many of you after a tough and unprecedented few months. And I’m guessing you probably haven’t taken much time for yourself lately? So I thought there was no better time (and hopefully you now have a spare half an hour) to team up with Lara Piras - a freelance writer, yoga teacher and mum to her one-year-old son, Etienne - to build on some of the relaxation techniques that Zahra mentioned last week.
Lara joins us this week to show us how to actively calm down our minds and bodies and help us move forward into the last few months of 2020 with positivity and resilience. There’s also an invitation at the end of the newsletter to join us for Lara’s virtual pay-what-you-feel yoga workshop, on Saturday the 26th of September. I hope to see you there.
Here's what Lara and I chatted about earlier in the week…
Can you tell me a bit about your freelance career so far? How long were you freelance before you had Etienne?
I’ve been a freelance writer and trend researcher for 10 years now, working with forecasting companies like WGSN and The Future Laboratory and publications such as Vogue and Refinery29. I’ve more recently moved into content creation and strategy work, collaborating with brands like adidas and IKEA on campaigns and consumer insight and analysis. My work is very varied, which I love. Every day and week is different, it’s a way of working that I thrive off of.
My son Etienne came into this world in April of 2019. Since then, I’ve been taking on a lot less freelance work so I can focus on the overwhelming, yet beautiful journey of motherhood. He’s starting nursery very soon, so I’ll be taking on a lot more gigs again, which I’m looking forward to. I think going back into it, I’ll manage my time better. I have always said yes to pretty much everything (only the good stuff of course), making time in the evenings and weekends to fit it all in. Even though being a mamma has taught me how to be an adept multi-tasker, I want to find a better balance between work/ parenting/ socialising/ downtime that works for me - the new me.
How long have you been teaching yoga? Does this work well as a side hustle with writing?
I’ve been teaching yoga for almost four years. I wouldn’t call it a side hustle as such. For me, it balances out my ‘work work’ and most importantly it’s a way to give back. What I do is karma yoga, ‘the path of unselfish action,’ so I work with vulnerable groups including the community organisation ‘Life After Cancer,’ and charity ‘Change, Grow, Live,’ who guide people through addiction. I also teach pay-what-you-feel classes and workshops with a focus on mental wellbeing. My goal is to inspire and help people, both physically and emotionally, through yoga.
How important is it to maintain good mental health as a freelance parent and why should we prioritise it more?
Maintaining optimal mental health is just as important as physical wellbeing. As Buddha says,
“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep the mind strong and clear.”
As freelance parents, we’re juggling a lot every day; childcare pickup and drop offs, childcare at home, pitches, meetings, figuring out where to set up shop for the day (at home, a coffee shop or co-working spot) and that’s all before we’ve started any actual work. This is why taking care of our minds is so important. If our minds are strong and clear, our day to day can be strong and clear too.
How can yoga help us to reset and recharge each day?
The incredible thing about yoga and meditation is that it can be used at different times during the day for different reasons. A simple asana (posture) sequence, pranayama (breath control) and a short meditation is a wonderful way to start the day, but if that’s not possible, and as a freelance parent, it may well not be, utilising any of these exercises as little pauses throughout the day can be just as effective as a full morning practice. Perhaps you can take 20 minutes longer for lunch one day, or use it as your 4pm pick-me-up instead of coffee and chocolate (or in addition to of course), I’m sure we all love those moments in the day as well.
In essence, yoga, pranayama and meditation cleanses and energises the mind and body, so check in with yourself throughout the day. And whenever you feel the need to reset and recharge, you can follow these sequences - all together at once, or slotted into your day as you desire.
PRANAYAMA (5 minutes)
Nadi shodhana or alternate nostril breathing settles the mind, body, and emotions.
Sit in a comfortable seat, in a chair or on the floor on a cushion with the spine long and the chest and heart space open.
Using your right hand, bring your pointer finger and middle finger to rest between your eyebrows, close your eyes and take a deep breath in through the nose and out the mouth.
Close your right nostril with your right thumb, inhale through the left nostril deeply, close the left nostril with your ring finger, open your right nostril and release the breath fully through the right side; pause at the bottom of the exhale. REPEAT on the other side and do 5-10 cycles (on both the right and left side).
Helps focus the mind
Supports the lungs and respiratory system
Restores balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and clears the energetic channels
Rejuvenates the nervous system and removes toxins
YOGA (10 minutes)
To start, be seated in your most comfortable seated position
BREATHE - inhale deeply and exhale fully - thinking about emptying the breath via the heart space, the rib area and belly - repeat 3 times -
NECK - move the head from side to side - pause on each side for 3 deep breaths
SHOULDERS - bring your shoulders up by the ears and lower with a big exhale - repeat 3 times
SIDE BEND - place your right hand beside you, inhale and lift the left arm overhead, exhale bend over to the right - keep your heart space facing the ceiling and your left hip grounding down - repeat on the other side -
TWIST - place the right hand behind you, inhale and lift the left arm overhead, exhale twist to the right - keep your spine long - repeat on the other side -
Come to hands and knees, aligning your wrists underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips.
CAT-COW - visualise your spine moving softly like the flow of a wave. On your inhale to cow, lift your sitting bones and open your chest towards the ceiling, while your belly sinks to the floor. Look towards the ceiling. Keep the shoulders away from the ears. On your exhale reversely move into cat: pull your belly button to your spine, curving your back towards the ceiling like an angry cat.
CHILD’S POSE - kneel on the floor, sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips. On your exhale, lower the torso over the thighs as much as feels comfortable.
DOWNWARD FACING DOG - in hands and knees, ensure your hands are shoulder-width apart and spread your fingers out wide. Tuck your toes underneath you and take a deep inhale, then keeping your hands pressed into the mat exhale deeply, lift your knees off the floor and straighten your legs as much as you can.
You can peddle out the feet in down dog, bending one knee and then the next, or find stillness. Take 3-5 breaths here.
Walk your hands back to your feet and come to a FORWARD FOLD - keep the knees bent and try to bring the belly onto the thighs.
SLOWLY ROLL UP YOUR SPINE TO STANDING - notice how you feel/ notice any shifts in the mind and body
PAUSE IN MOUNTAIN (STANDING) POSE - how do your mind and body feel? Can you notice any subtle shifts or sensations?
STANDING FLOW - inhale raise the arms overhead, exhale bend the knees and fold forward - repeat as many times as you like, finding a pace that works for you. This movement will increase heart rate and circulation, giving you an energy boost.
PAUSE IN MOUNTAIN POSE - take three deep breaths and then slowly come to sit or lie down for meditation.
MEDITATION (5 minutes)
For 5 minutes, I’d like you to simply listen to the sounds you can hear both near and far - start off listening to the sounds inside and outside your house or office for one or so minutes, then for the rest of your meditation (please take more than 5 minutes if you have more time), focus on the beautiful sound of your breath entering and leaving the body, as it nourishes, energises and guides you.
*Ensure you don’t label the sounds as good or bad sounds, simply let them be, using them as an anchor to quiet the mind.
PRACTICE WITH LARA
Lara is hosting a pay-what-you-feel yoga workshop on Saturday 26th September via Zoom. The session is focused on the idea of reigniting a sense of inner joy, something that, as freelance parents, we may have overlooked over the past few months. Smile, laugh and gently move your body with Lara via the link here. Complete beginners are encouraged.