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This woman beat adrenal fatigue in a really clever way.

Image: Supplied

About six years ago, a series of calamitous events closed in on me all at once, hurtling me down into the darkest abyss of grief I’d ever experienced.

You know that place? Where all of a sudden jogging seems like a good idea but only in the pouring rain when it’s suitably dramatic and no one can see the tears streaming down your face? And you’re in your pajamas. Been there? Let’s hug.

During such times, the practical mind tries to grip onto the beautiful philosophical insights that we know to be true – “this is only temporary, the pendulum will swing as far back into the positive as it is in the negative and that things are exactly as they should be” –- but often these pearls are no more a rope out of the immediate hole, than are the rays of midday sunshine trespassing into the pit of your doona cave.

Image: supplied

Of course, the deep embedding of a bigger philosophical view is an imperative survival tool to keep things in perspective. (Scientists just discovered a black hole 12 BILLION times the size of our SUN! How significant really is it that someone’s put a knife in the spoon section?) But pragmatism on the ground is also vital to keep one foot stepping in front of the other – even if that foot is wearing a slipper… at the shops.

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When I first started to slowly step back into the sun without wanting to shake my fist in its joyful face, I noticed that my breathing had become short and shallow. I was yawning all the time and the yawns were getting stuck in my throat. I just couldn't pull them deep enough into my chest; my lungs weren't expanding enough.

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I was wrecked all day and pumped all night. Even though happiness was slowly returning, panic and anxiety were beginning to rise after months of emotional overload, exacerbated by the shallow breathing that was preventing the full cycle of purification from being realised. This was all sitting on top of a lifetime spent running around like an over-adrenalised, shallow-breathing, fast-talking squirrel. My adrenals were flat on their back, giving me the finger.

What I needed to do was shut my mouth.

The simple act of sealing your lips and breathing is the first step to balancing out the stress-to-adrenal-support seesaw that for many of us is pumping wildly up and down.

Stress pulls us into the sympathetic nervous system that over-adrenalises us. It keeps the breath shallow at the top of the lungs, sends uncomfortable loads of energy to the peripheral ends of the body, including the place where we should be sitting in supreme serenity – the sahasrara chakra above the crown of the head.

When that starts lashing about like a tornado, our base (which in yoga terms is both at the feet and at muladhara chakra – roughly the region of the pelvic floor) becomes disconnected from the earth. You’re flapping about in the breeze. You’ll find yourself breathing shallowly, perhaps even panting like an excited Labrador, speeding up the e
Your adrenals will desperately try to keep up, until one day the parasympathetic nervous system takes over and all you want to do is flop about yawning. This can happen purely through the rigours of daily life, not just off the back of obvious trauma.

Try this for 60 seconds

• Seal your lips, perhaps even turn the corners up a little.

• Sit up straight, preferably on the floor. If sitting on the floor feels like rubbish in your lower back or hips, lay on the floor. The closer you get to the earth the more earth-like qualities you’ll soak up, i.e. not feeling like you’re free-falling into the bottomless pit.

• Subtly tilt the point of the chin toward the chest, just enough to lengthen the back of your neck.

• Put your hands on your belly.

• Breathe in fill the belly, fill the chest and feel the heart rise up to the chin

• Soften your shoulders ... a little more ... a little more ... a little more...

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• Breathe out, feel the space beneath the hands drawing back toward the spine.

• Soften your shoulders ... a little more ... a little more ... a little more ... perfect!

• Repeat forever and ever and ever.

How do you feel? A little calmer, a little taller, eyes a little brighter, a little more awake?

There are of course loads of other factors that should come into play: less computer time, more sleep, less talking, more listening, less coffee, more lentils, less booze, more hugs… they're all your own individual adjustments to make to bring things back into balance overall. But at the heart of it, deep in the belly via the nostrils is where the breath must reside in order for all the other energies to follow.

Once you've got it down, you can get rid of the hands on the tummy, then you can do it walking, listening and eventually sleeping. After that you can start high-fiving, hugging, crying, loving and one day popping wheelies too. Then if you do hit another trench (which you will) and come unstuck, close the mouth, put on the 4WD tyres and breathe in the wisdom offered by the road less travelled.

Eat for recovery

If you’ve got adrenal fatigue, you should avoid stimulants such as sugar and caffeine, but also gluten, banana, dried figs, raisins, dates, oranges, grapefruit, soy and dairy. Instead, step up on the foods and supplements in this gallery.

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About the author: It was five years ago when yoga really started to become a leading light in my life rather than emergency backup-support for a hedonistic existence. Those first few years of becoming sober, coupled with a deep yoga practice, were intense – not just suddenly seeing the lost and selfish dickhead I'd been for two decades, but learning to love and forgive that dickhead (as well as those who'd taken my hand and walked me down that path to begin with).

Two years ago I did my teacher training with the amazing Lance Schuler from Inspya. Since then I have taught more than 1,000 hours. My husband and I opened The Yoga Shack North Byron, and we host workshops, teach overseas and hold a yoga program for recovering addicts.