In order to enjoy life completely it is necessary to create space to just be. We finish work in less time, with reduced stress and greater results, relationships will strengthen and grow, happiness will flow through and from each of us.
These three simple practices can change your life; they are suitable for all ages and all beliefs. They will add balance to life, reduce stress and bring a strong sense of calm to all that you do. Choose one or all when you are ready to explore deeper happiness and joy in your life.
Step 1: Breathe
Something we do every minute of every day can actually change our lives. Most of us pay little or no attention to the breath and yet just five minutes a day is enough to notice a difference. Here is a simple breathing technique to improve health, soothe the mind and bring balance to life.
• Sit in a firm chair, feet on the floor, lengthen your spine to become tall; shoulders move back and the head lifts out of the neck. With eyes closed, notice your breath.
• When ready, inhale and allow the belly to gently fill first, then feel the rib cage lift slightly, finally feel the collar bones and throat soften. As you exhale, relax the body; notice how the throat and collar bones drop, then the rib cage will contract and finally, at the end of the exhale, gently squeeze the lower belly to the spine. Practice this belly-breathing for three-five minutes (or longer).
• When finished, allow the breath to come back to its own rhythm and notice how it feels, and slowly open your eyes.
Step 2: Yoga
Yoga works. Not the poses that remind you of pretzels, rather the poses that allow you to heal your body in a gentle, self-supportive way. Yoga is for men and women of all ages, all sizes and all backgrounds. All these postures are done in a chair and are appropriate for most body types and ability levels.
• Low back release: Sit in a firm chair, feet on the floor, inhale and lengthen your spine to become tall, chest and belly button reaching forward and an arch through the back. As you exhale, round through the back and shoulders, drawing the navel to the spine. Repeat for one minute or longer.
• Hip opener: Keep the right foot flat on the floor; place the left ankle bone on the right thigh. Grow tall to lengthen the spine, maintain this straight back and gently lean forward (if you can do so with no pain). The left hand (or elbow) can rest gently on the left knee. Do not push on the upper knee. Hold for one minute or longer. Repeat on other side.
• Gentle twist: Sit in a firm chair, feet on the floor, inhale and lengthen the spine to become tall, exhale and twist the torso to the left. If you like, hook your left arm over the back of the chair and your right hand on the outer edge of your left thigh. Hold for one minute or longer. Repeat on other side.
Step 3: Meditation
Meditation comes in many shapes and sizes and is a wonderful way to tame the “monkey mind.” It is most effective to learn meditation with a particular point of focus. Commit five-10 minutes to your meditation daily and you may notice subtle changes in the first week.
• One of the most common forms of meditation involves using a mantra (a repetitive phrase) to focus the mind. It is best to choose a mantra that resonates with you, reflecting your life’s purpose or your spiritual practice. Choose a three-five syllable phrase or two the same length. Some examples: “God lives in me;” “God is peace;” “I live in grace;” “Om Namah Shivaya.”
• Sit in a firm chair, feet on the floor, lengthen your spine to become tall; shoulders move back and the head lifts out of the neck, hands rest gently in your lap. With the inhale breathe in your mantra, on the exhale remain silent. If you prefer to sit on the floor, use a cushion to gently lift the hips and cross the legs as you are able.
• The mantra is your point of focus; it works as a leash for the monkey mind. Your mind (thoughts) will wander; when you notice, gently come back to the mantra.
As with all new practices, give yourself time and permission to adjust your schedule and find the best times and places for each.