Graduate Medical Education Pausing Practices

Stretch/Yoga

Paying attention to our body’s physical sensations is one way to come into the present moment, metabolize stress and strengthen the mind body connection.

Before participating in any exercise program that may be described you should consult with a physician or other healthcare provider.

Instructions:

Here are a few poses to do.  They can be done in any order.  Just remember:

  • Breathe in the poses. Gently notice how and where you feel the breath.  In each pose, take 4 or 5 complete breaths in and out.
  • Move slowly in and out of the poses so as to pay attention to the movements and sensations in your body.
  • Always work within the range of your limits and abilities in the present moment, understanding this will shift from day-to-day and even hour-by-hour
  • Mountain Pose

    How to do it:

    • Stand up tall with your feet together or shoulder width apart.
    • Arms by your side with the spine long. Legs are strong but the knees are not locked. Shoulders can be relaxed.
    • Find your breath.

    What you might notice:

    • What it feels like to pause and breathe; the qualities of mountain pose – being grounded, rooted, and also lightness and elevation.

    Alternative:

    • The pose can be done sitting on a chair with feet touching the ground, hands on the thighs. The spine reaches long, head and neck are relaxed.

     

  • Raised Arms Pose

    How to do it:

    • Moving slowly and deliberately from mountain pose posture (tailbone tucked, thighs and core engaged) slowly take arms overhead. Palms can touch or face each other.
    • Keep shoulders relaxed, arms are straight, stretch through the fingertips and look up.
    • Neck can be relaxed. No strain is necessary.

    What you might notice:

    • Breathing, making sure the breath comes steadily, easily, and naturally.
    • Paying attention to the subtle sensations that allow for this movement.

    Alternative:

    • You might try this pose against a wall to help with alignment. If you have shoulder pain skip this pose or raise the arms only to a level that is comfortable. The pose can be done seated in a chair.

     

  • Shoulder Rolls and Neck Rolls

    How to do it:

    (Shoulder roll)

    • Standing or seated with arms at the side or hands resting gently on the thighs, raise the shoulders up towards the ears
    • Roll shoulders back and down, forward and back up towards the ears
    • Slowly repeat in this direction 4 or 5 times, then reverse the direction 

    (Neck roll)

    • Standing or seated with arms at the side or hands resting gently on the thighs, lower the chin to the chest
    • Slowly let the head draw over towards one of the shoulders, then gently rolling back and towards the other shoulder and back to the start with chin to chest.
    • Slowly repeat in this direction 4 or 5 times, then reverse the direction

    What you might notice:

    • What it feels like to let the shoulders and the neck relax. Be careful to not move beyond what feels safe for your shoulders or neck.

     

  • Tree Pose

    How to do it:

    • From mountain pose, place hands on the hips and shift weight over to one foot.
    • Lift the opposite foot and place it on balancing leg either on the inner thigh, the calf muscle, or the ankle. Be sure not to place the foot on the knee joint.
    • Arms can remain on the hips, be placed palms together in front of the body, or be raised as in raised arm pose.
    • Take three to five breaths, return to neutral and repeat on the opposite side

    What you might notice:

    • Balance may be different from one side to the other (or one day to another)
    • Play with the placement of the foot that is lifted off the ground, finding the place that is most supportive for you today.
    • Notice your breath.

    Alternative:

    • Instead of hands on the hips, or raised, placing a hand on the wall or on the back of the chair may be skillful.

     

  • One Leg Balance Pose

    How to do it:

    • From mountain pose, raise arms straight out to the sides of the body until they are parallel to the ground
    • Shift the weight over to one foot
    • Lift the opposite foot once balance is located
    • Let the lifted foot float just off the ground to a foot or so from the ground depending on your balance today.
    • Keeping the gaze fixed on an unmoving object may help to maintain the posture
    • Take three to five breaths while feeling the balance on one leg.
    • Return to neutral then repeat on the other side

    What you might notice:

    • Balance may be different from one side to the other. You may come in and out of the pose
    • Notice your breath.

    Alternative:

    • Lifting the leg to a degree that is skillful for you today, even if that means keeping a toe touching the ground
    • A hand can be placed on the wall or on the back of a chair to help maintain balance

     

  • Lunge Pose

    How to do it:

    • Step your left foot forward and align your left knee directly over the ankle so that the leg is perpendicular to the floor. Avoid bringing the knee past the ankle.
    • Extend the right leg behind you. You can rest the knee and top of the foot on the floor. If contact with the floor is uncomfortable for the knee, place a folded blanket or cushion under it.
    • Find a neutral position for your neck, making it a straight extension of the spinal column, with the head looking down. Once the legs are positioned, lengthen the thighs in opposite directions (left thigh forward, right thigh back) and gently lower the hips and pelvis toward the floor. This will bring the hip flexors into an engaging stretch.
    • Do not strain or attempt to lower the pelvis beyond your comfortable capacity.
    • Hold the pose for 5 breaths and then repeat with opposite leg.

    What you might notice:

    • You might notice that you are holding your breath or that other parts of the body not involved in the stretch are straining.

    Alternative:

    • Hold onto a chair for support as you lower the pelvis.

     

  • Warrior I

    How to do it:

    • Begin in mountain pose (see 1st stretch)
    • Step your right foot backwards creating a long stance.
    • Turn your right heel down and angle your foot to a 45-degree angle.
    • Bend your left knee as close as you can to a 90-degree angle.
    • Extend your arms upwards.
    • Hold the pose for 5 breaths before returning to mountain pose and repeating on the second side.

    What you might notice:

    • Notice the strength and confidence of this pose.

    Alternative:

    • Attempting to angle both hips towards the front is ideal, but not necessary AND should be avoided if you experience pain in the hips, knees, and/or low back.

     

  • Chair Pose

    How to do it:

    • In Mountain pose with the feet together or hip width apart, bring the arms parallel to the floor with the palms facing down.
    • Exhale and bend the knees, squatting down. Reach the hips down and back as if you were going to sit on the edge of a chair, bringing your weight to the heels of the feet.
    • Do not bring the hips lower than the level of the knees.  Make sure that the knees are pointing straight ahead.
    • Press the shoulders down and back trying to arch the spine. Relax the shoulders.
    • Breathe and hold for 5 breaths.

    What you might notice:

    • How does it feel to maintain this pose? Do you have a tendency to push yourself or give up easily?

    Alternative:

    • Don’t try this if you are having back, hip or knee problems.
    • If you are having trouble balancing try moving the feet farther apart.

     

Want more? The Health Sciences Library offers free yoga classes Mondays 5:05pm and Wednesdays at 12:05pm.

Reflection Questions:

  • Question 1

    Were some physical sensations “louder” or more uncomfortable than others?

  • Question 2

    How did you respond to physical sensations? Where you able to stay present with your body?

  • Question 3

    Were you able to stretch without striving?

  • Question 4

    Do you ever lose track of your sensations? Like forgetting or becoming too busy to eat, pee, or sit down especially on a busy rotation?