What fosters energy and youthful enthusiasm in your life? What rituals help you wake up and maintain mindful presence? That’s what we’re exploring here and in episode 62 of the A Blythe Coach Podcast:
I am not a medical doctor or expert, just sharing what works for me and recommendations from friends and professionals. Definitely consult with a trusted physician to treat the cause of your symptoms.
Recently, students of mine shared about their experiences of insomnia, and I researched yoga poses, taught sequences on the theme, and compiled those and other natural approaches into the Seeking Sweet Sleep: Yogic Insomnia Solutions blog and podcast.
Before taking my August content pause, I also wrote about making the most of time off in the Rest & Recovery Rocks My World blog and podcast. Another key topic related to managing our energy is that of focus and priorities, which I discussed last April in the Approaches to Space: Qualities of Focus in Dance & Life blog. Each of these areas of self-care affect our energy levels and enjoyment of life.
Sweet sleep, productive rest and time off, and focusing on our priorities as we move into early fall brought me to my next topic, which is once we’re awake, how to feel energized, inspired, and awesome! In my life, I’ve been fortunate to be blessed with lots of energy, although I do go through periods of higher and lower energy and require quite a bit of sleep.
It helps to have fostered habits that help lift me up on days where I’m not feeling so peppy, like good nutrition, hydration, getting outside for fresh air and sunshine, engaging with my passions such as dancing, teaching, writing, creating and experiencing art, joyfully moving my body, plus remembering quality rest and recovery. Some yogis avoid coffee, but I am not one of them and really enjoy drinking the stuff. It’s an ongoing process!
Energizing Yoga Poses & Flows
The beauty of yoga as a holistic system is that it is great at balancing energy, whether we need to come down and mellow out in anxious times or need to wake up and rise to the occasion. Exactly what type of practice or which poses are most beneficial to you will depend on your constitution, experiences, needs, and the season of life you’re currently in.
Practicing yoga has had a positive effect on my energy levels and mood, creating calm and grounding when I feel anxious, scattered, or jittery, and waking and warming me up, improving my sense of flow, enhancing focus and concentration, relieving pain, and radiating joy when I might feel a bit low. The practices of yoga can cultivate happiness, enthusiasm, vigor, and youthful energy.
My knowledge of Ayurveda is still very basic, but I look forward to learning more in time, optimizing energy and health in the process. Meanwhile, The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health, with sequences by Patricia Walden, has a specific recommended sequence for energy, which is the second one to be introduced after the “Essential Sequence.” I believe that the same poses and practices have value for people of any gender.
The poses in Walden’s “Woman’s Energizing Sequence” (p.25) include variations of Mountain Pose (Tadasana), Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana), Warrior II Pose (Virabhadrasana II), Extended Side-Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvokonasana), Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana I), Intense Side Stretch Pose (Parsvottanasana), Hero Pose with Cow-Face Arms (Virasana with Gomukhasana Arms), Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana), Headstand (Sirsasana), Child’s Pose (Adho Mukha Virasana), Inverted Staff Pose (Viparita Dandasana), Camel Pose (Ustrasana), Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), Upward-Facing Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana), variations of Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana), Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), Plough Pose (Halasana), Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), Legs-Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani), and Corpse Pose (Savasana).
In researching yoga practices to promote healthy energy in The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health, other books in my yoga library, and the practices and videos offered by other yoga teachers, the following themes emerged in terms of types of practices, flows, and poses: Sun Salutations of all kinds, Kundalini Yoga Exercises, Balancing Poses, Backbends & other Heart-Openers, and Inversions. Below I share examples of each type of pose and where available, links to videos where you can practice them with me.
Sun Salutations: Surya Namaskara – Yoga Sun Salutations A & B – 30 minute practice
Kundalini Yoga Exercises: Rib Spirals/Sufi Circles/Coffee Grinders – Yogic Breathing Practice – Pranayama – Nadi Shodhana + Kundalini Spinal Rotation
Gentle Inversions: Legs-Up-the-Wall Cycle (Feet together, apart, crossed)
Refreshing Yoga Sequence Videos
I recently created a 3-practice video mini-series of these selected poses and flows, with the first sequence focused on low-to-the-ground poses, the second consisting of standing poses (no weight-bearing in the arms/upper body), and the last centered around arm balances:
Floor-Based Yoga for Energy – 45 Minute seated/kneeling/reclining
Standing Yoga for Energy – 25 Minute “hands-free”
Arm Balance Yoga for Energy – 30 Minute
In general, The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health recommends that we “Exercise early in the day–aerobic activity like walking or jogging, energizing yoga sequences, and pranayama practice.” (p.243) Stimulating activities are better to engage in in the morning or midday, not too close to bedtime when they might inhibit sleep, although we can practice relaxing/restorative poses to relax and unwind later in the day.
Looking for more invigorating and tiring practices for your morning hours?Some other short, energetic yoga sequences for early in the day are:
- “Short Yoga Flow – 10 Minute Basic Vinyasa Yoga Sequence”
- “Short Dancey Yoga Flow – 23 Minutes”
- “Happy Knees Stability Yoga Practice – 40 Minutes
These practices and more can be found on the Yogalicious playlist on the A Blythe Coach YouTube Channel.
Energizing Breathing Practices/Pranayama
Pranayama or yogic breathing exercises can be great for balancing energy, helping it flow through the chakras or energy centers of the body. These practices include Kapalabhati/Breath of Fire/Skull Shining Breath, Nadi Shodhana/Alternate Nostril Breathing, & Yoga for Integration – Bandhas & Kapalabhati.
More energy-balancing pranayama techniques can be found on the Beautiful Breathing – Yoga Pranayama Playlist on the A Blythe Coach YouTube Channel.
Meditation, Yoga Nidra, & Visualization
More free tools in the toolkit of fostering healthy energy are Meditation, Visualization, and Yoga Nidra. Check out my 2021 Meditation Challenge Blog, Daily Meditation Challenge Podcast, and Yoga Nidra – Deep Relaxation Practice Video for some ways to enhance energy through these practices.
Healthy Eating for Energy
Healthy nutritious eating can be a key factor in our energy levels, self-care, and well-being, check out my blog and podcast on the topic for more ideas for energizing foods.
It was a also a delight to be featured this month in Hong Kong Dance Magazine’s “Tutus & Tapas” dancer snacks article that included dancers around the world. Fun sharing my passion for balance, smoothies and cookies there!
Essential Oils & Herbal Teas
I’m privileged to have access to a good environment for sleeping, quality food, water, coffee & tea, herbs & essential oils, crystals, and a plethora of tools to enhance my quality of life. If they are within reach, you may also try Peppermint tea and/or essential oil, Ginger tea and/or essential oil, Grapefruit & Other Citrus & Lemongrass oils, or whatever scents or flavors that give you a lift! If these things are not available, just do what you can, breath and mindful movement are accessible to all.
Some of my favorites crystals to support energy and clarity are Clear Quartz, Citrine, Red Jasper, Aquamarine, & Tiger’s Eye.
Bracing Cold Showers
A practice I’ve taken up in the last year or so, which is indubitably invigorating, according to some studies helping reduce stress, improve mood, and boost immunity is Wim Hof-style cold showers.
I learned about Wim Hof’s method on Russell Brand’s “Under the Skin” podcast called “Ice Shaman,” Melissa Urban’s “Do the Thing” podcast “Cold Showers with Ed Sheeran” encouraged me to put a soundtrack to it (very helpful!), and Courtney Carver’s Be More with Less blog, “Lessons From 30 Days of Cold Showers (and other uncomfortable challenges)” pointed out a host of other benefits to facing challenge and discomfort.
Carver says of her experience: “I started the cold shower challenge on June 26th because I was curious, but also because I was bored with my quarantine routine. I craved a shift and cold showers delivered. This may not be a life-changing challenge, but it did brighten up my mornings. When I step out of the cold shower, I am wide awake.” Carver continues, “Starting on Friday, June 26th reminded me that I can always choose to change and grow. I don’t have to wait until Monday or January 1st or another special day or time. Now is a great time to start.”
In this way, both the cold shower itself and it’s physical and emotional benefits, and any small way you switch up and refresh your routine or get out of your comfort zone can invigorate your life. I also used the free Wim Hof App to start small with my cold shower habit and work my way up to longer and build a consistent “streak.” Now I spend a couple minutes in a cold rinse at the end of my shower 1-2 times per week and it’s a surefire wake-up!
What music you find invigorating is going to differ from what I do, but this is to encourage you to figure out what that is for you, and use it as a tool to help you find a state of wakeful presence. Some of my favorite tracks to inspire creativity and energy are on this recent playlists:
- Micro-Workout 2021 Playlist
- 2021derful Tracks for Yogi Flowing & Glowing Playlist
- Piratical Summer Playlist
Podcasts for Energy and Well-Being
- Podcast 038: Beach Bonfire Guided Elements Visualization
- Podcast 002: Finding a Centered State of Being
- Podcast 006: Using Visualization + Imagery in dance, yoga & meditation
- Podcast 011: Creating Good Space
- Podcast 023: Care & Actualization of the Self
- Podcast 031: Healthy Habit-Building
- Podcast 033: Daily Meditation Challenge
What helps you wake up, feel vibrant, creative and focused?
Stay tuned here and on my YouTube Channel and for more about living a luscious life!!
Blythe Stephens, MFA, Bliss Catalyzing Dance Educator & Coach
she/her or they/them
Founder of A Blythe Coach: move through life with balance, grace, & power
DISCLAIMER: A Blythe Coach recommends that you consult your physician regarding the applicability of any recommendations and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program. When participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself.