Restorative Yoga for the Mighty Nurse

yogaIt’s no secret that the nursing profession, while most honorable, is also one of the most stressful.  Article after article references the hard work and devotion nurses make to the profession-going above and beyond.  It’s most certainly a labor of love when one takes an honest look at the lower pay, long hours, and unavoidable stress that nurses endure in comparison. We love our jobs in spite of the stress that comes with it. We thrive in the service of others. So what can we do to serve ourselves? Destress from a tough day?

I found yoga while in nursing school.  In the last 16 years, it has supported me in both my professional and personal life.  It helps me destress and stay balanced. It has become my passion in life to teach everyone I know-friends, family, the corporate world, coworkers, parents of hospitalized children, and now you.

Why Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient tradition of posture, breath, focus, and, meditation. Rooted in India, it is a practice that’s ultimate goal is to relieve the mind of internal chatter and thus suffering.   It claims no religion.  Anyone can practice regardless of faith, gender, age, size, health, flexibility. More and more research is showing the benefits of yoga from relief from depression, anxiety, and stress to improved sleep, cardiovascular health, and immune function. The corporate world has taken notice with companies like Google and Apple offering free yoga to employees. It is time that nurses and nursing students benefit as well.

The following is an easy, 5-10 minute pre or post shift restorative yoga sequence to start your shift right or end the day. Restorative yoga moves the practitioner through a series of static postures or poses. This restorative sequence is designed to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system-calm the mind, connect with the breath, and ease a bit of achiness in the neck, shoulders and low back. One pose leads into the next.

What You Need

All you need is a yoga mat or a large beach towel and a medium sized, tightly rolled towel. If you know you have tight hips, have two additional tightly rolled towels close by.

Apanasana (Knee to Chest Pose)

Apanasana is the perfect pose for low back pain. Show me a nurse that has never had low back pain. This should be a part of your daily nursing routine. On an inhale, draw your knees to your chest wrapping your arms around your shin bones. Relax the head, neck, and shoulders on your mat. Soften all the muscles in the face, neck, shoulders. You can move your knees from side to side and/or forward and back for added release. Breathe deeply here in and out through your nose for at least 10-20 breaths or as long as feels good.

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Jathara Parivartanasana Variation (Revolved Abdomen Pose Variation)

This simple twist is another pose for tension in the shoulders, along the spine, or back. It is the perfect pose to neutralize your spine after a day of lifting, turning or supporting your patients. Nurses assume some of the most unnatural positions while working at the bedside. Draw your knees into your chest. Drop your knees to the right, one stacked on the other. It’s perfectly ok if you can not reach your knees to the floor. Find your shape without forcing. Keep your shoulders anchored to the mat. Stretch your arms out along the floor in a T shape, shoulder height, palms facing down. Look over your left shoulder. Take 10-20 deep even breaths in and out of the nose, longer if you wish. Breathe out any tension between the shoulder blades, along the spine, in the low back. After 10-20 breaths, inhale and draw your knees back to the center. On an exhale, drop your knees to the left side looking over your right shoulder to repeat on the other side.

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Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)

Supta Baddha Konasana is my favorite restorative yoga pose. The goal here is total relaxation with the added benefit of a gentle stretch in the hips. Lay flat on your back. Place a rolled towel just under the tips of your shoulder blades. Your shoulders should release down and be touching the mat. Bend your knees and allow them to gently fall to the sides bringing the soles of your feet together. If it is too much strain on the hips or if you feel any strain in your knees, place a rolled towel under each thigh.

Close your eyes and begin bringing your awareness to the sound of your breath. One breath at a time, in and out of your nose. Begin to lengthen every inhale, every exhale. With every inhale, invite calm and ease. With every exhale, let go of any tension, achiness, worry. Let go of any conflict- a difficult shift, difficult patient, difficult doctor or coworker. Just allow a wave of self care wash over you with every single breath. Stay in this pose for at least 2-3 minutes. The longer the better.

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Lori is a travel nurse that has made her way to Sweden. Follow her adventures working and traveling through Europe in her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.

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