The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019








Tai chi, too

Tai chi, a form of martial arts, is another way to find balance through movement and breathing. Janet Briggs, owner of East Wind Tai Chi in Windham (pictured above), teaches the Dong family style of tai chi, which incorporates slow and circular movements that steadily grow faster.
“Tai chi requires you to be mindful, so it’s really a good physical as well as mental exercise that you gain,” Briggs said in a phone interview. 
Tai chi helps reduce stress because it requires an acute focus on the body. 
“Sometimes in your daily life … you don’t really allow your body to be relaxed and flowing, so you are generally very tense and uptight,” she said. “People really need to break off from that and pay attention to [the] body.”
Tai chi involves a lot of balancing, so being in the moment is essential to the practice, Briggs said. Letting the mind wander to what’s for dinner, things to do tomorrow or even the next pose isn’t an option. 
“If you’re thinking of the next movement, you’re not going to have that good balance,” she said. 
As with yoga, components of tai chi can be used in daily life. The first thing Briggs teaches her students is how to relax and stretch the joints, which can be done anywhere, anytime. 
“Take a big deep breath, relax the shoulders, stretch out the arms and just let it go,” she said. “Imagine you’re holding a large balloon in front of you and you are wrapping your arms in front of it and relaxing into it, then think that it’s expanding and effortlessly let your arms expand with it. … Naturally your breath will become deeper.” 
Two stress-less yoga moves
If you’re in a place where you can move around a bit, Brandy Hill (pictured above) suggested child’s pose and legs up the wall as two poses that allow for stress release. Child’s pose mimics the fetal position, with bended knees and the body leaning forward until the forehead touches the ground. 
“In fetal position there is no effort, you’re just there,” she said. “You’re feeling grounded, calm, centered.” 
For legs up the wall, you lay on your back with your legs extended up toward the ceiling, either on their own or pressed against a wall. 
“It reverses the blood flow and reverses the effects of your day and the blood starts to flow toward the body and the heart,” Hill said. “It’s great for relieving tension in the legs, swelling in the legs and feet, and also for improving sleep.”

Free your mind
Release stress with yoga

By Allie Ginwala

Warrior pose may sound fierce, but it’s one of many yoga poses that can help you release tension and anxiety. The key is to focus on breathing and being in the moment.

“When you link movement with the breath in a mindful way, you can quiet the mind,” said Brandy Hill, owner and director of Banyan Tree Yoga in Nashua. “It quiets the nervous system.”
Yoga is all about listening to your body and tuning in to what it needs. 
“You don’t have to do a pose to its fullest extent; there is a variation or modification to the pose to make it more accessible and welcoming,” Hill said in a phone interview. “[You’re] not stressing to try to achieve, you’re not powering through.” 
As you move through yoga postures and find a place of balance or “the sweet spot without competition or judgment,” Hill said, everything else floats away. 
“You're not in the pose and thinking about your groceries or what happened at work today,” she said. “When you’re there and especially if you’re challenged in a pose, there is not a lot of opportunity to think of anything else except your body, breath, and spirit.”
You don’t need a studio, instructor or even a mat to get the benefits of yoga. 
“Yoga can be an hour and a half in the studio or 10 minutes at home or it can take a few minutes at your desk,” Hill said. “You can find yoga anywhere.”
One of the easiest ways to calm stress through yoga is with controlled breathing, called pranayama.
 “When you find yourself in a stressful or [anxious] environment, closing the eyes, breathing in through the nose and out through the nose … that’s the place to start,” Hill said. 
Different postures can help relieve stress depending on the person, so Hill suggested taking a class at a studio or online at home to find a few things that resonate with you. Remember those and use them during the day when you have the time. Just remember to take the balanced thoughts with you. 
“You can have the most beautiful yoga practice, but if you're not practicing with mindfulness and taking that with you when you leave then you’re not going to be equipped,” Hill said. 
As seen in the January 8, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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