Aleisha Holder

WELLNESS QUEST: Wellness consultant and yoga instructor Aleisha Holder strikes a yoga pose. —Photo: Lincoln Holder

YOGA instructors, wellness consultants and sisters Aleisha and Ayanna Holder have been helping people throughout the years to manage their stress levels and bring their minds and bodies into alignment. Now that their studio is closed, they’ve created a YouTube channel, The Gentle Yogi, where interested people who not only want physical activity, but also want to feel well emotionally and mentally, can access free videos online.

According to the sisters, it has become very important to handle ourselves with care during these particularly stressful times. Here are a few of their tips on how you can include mindful moments throughout your day to stay on top of your mental, emotional and physical well-being.

1. Take breathing breaks. In those moments when you feel overwhelmed by the weight of fear, anxiety and negative thoughts, Ayanna and Aleisha recommend taking a breathing break.

“The yogic practice of Pranayama is the conscious awareness that our breath can heal us, calm us and allow us to focus on what is happening in the present moment instead of fear and the future. In yoga, as we inhale, our abdomen expands and, as we exhale, we release all the air inside of us, pulling the navel inward. Count your inhales and exhales; inhale to a count of three; increasing the number all the way up to eight,” they advise.

Children can also take part. The Holders suggest that a stuffed toy or light object can be placed on the child’s abdomen. The child can then be asked to make it move by simply breathing. This technique can help children who feel anxious or tired.

2. Practise mindfulness. This refers to being aware of how you feel or what you are doing in the present moment. Ayanna and Aleisha advise that people put phones and technology away while eating, taking a walk or while having a conversation.

“By focusing on one task or activity at a time, your mind can be fully present,” they say. “A mindful tip is to practise active listening and to use all of your senses while engaging in an activity.”

3. Meditate. Meditation is the quieting of the mind and body. In this time of information overload, setting aside quiet time will help bring your mind to ease and give it a rest. Although many people may not know how to start a meditation practice, Aleisha and Ayanna say the most important thing is that you start without expecting perfection.

“We recommend setting the timer on your phone to five minutes and you can begin or end your day with five minutes of stillness and silence. Sit quietly and observe your thoughts, allowing them to flood your mind and then eventually releasing each one.”

4. Do yoga. This has been proven to be a fantastic tool to help boost immunity and reduce stress, says Aleisha and Ayanna who own and operate their own yoga studio, The Gentle Yogi. While most, if not all, studios are currently closed due to COVID-19, you can still practise yoga at home. You do not need to be flexible and strong to begin; a consistent practice will get you there, they say. Now that the sisters have their own YouTube channel, The Gentle Yogi, people can avail themselves of free online videos.

5. Laugh. When was the last time you had a good laugh? It’s true that in stressful times, we might forget that it’s okay to laugh. But laughter is a potent medicine for us all during this time.

“Seek out funny movies or moments, share jokes and light-hearted stories with friends and family,” advise the wellness consultants.

6. Spend time with nature. Connecting with nature has been shown to have many positive effects on your well-being. Aleisha and Ayanna recommend that people spend some time with nature — within the requisite guidelines. This can be as simple as standing or lying on the grass or tending to your plants.

To share what you are doing to preserve your wellness during this time, e-mail wellness consultants and yoga instructors Aleisha Holder and Ayanna Holder at thegentleyogitt@gmail.com.

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