Relax... It's as easy as 1-2-3...(or 3-4-5!)
Trying but failing to bring a little calm into your day, your being?
Feeling stressed, tired, over-busy but can't seem to get off the 'always on' treadmill?
Know that you need to rest & slow down & be more present for yourself, your family & your friends but seem to just always be glued to your phone, to a screen?
If that sounds like you, well then join the club. From the moment we get up til the moment our weary heads hit the pillow, we are inundated & oversaturated with stimuli; the iPhone notifications, the news on the radio, the flood of e-mails, the family & friends WhatsApp messages, the Facebook updates, the SnapChat clips & on. And on. And on.
We've all read about & know too well now the perils of our overuse of both social media & excess screen-time - whether it's Netflix binges or Insta super-scrolling or YouTube zombie-dom.
Sore eyes, addled brains, bad posture, neck & shoulder pain, disconnection (oh the bitter irony) from those around us, eating disorders, anxiety, obesity, depression, perfectionism, narcissism - just about any & every negative '-ism' & '-ity' you can think of is either made worse by or related to our out-of-whack online & on-screen time.
And it's not just Millennials or Digital Natives who are at risk - there isn't an age demographic now that isn't in some way overly dependent on 'passive pursuits'. What used to be known as 'leisure time' (in American slang) and would mean say hanging out with friends on a hike or going biking or golfing or heading to a park for a picnic & a game of football or doing a community clean-up is now, for too many of us, predominantly time spent sedentary, silent & solo.
It can seem incredibly hard to resist this tsunami of external digital inputs & online lures; it may feel like we have to give up everything in order to bring even a modicum of balance back into our lives. Sometimes, depending on our characters & how habits work for us, 'all-or-nothing' is what it might take.
But for a lot of us, a very simple 'intervention' could be just the nudge we need. To rest. To pause. To take stock. And carry on.
And it isn't hard. It isn't technical. It isn't even mystical or 'woo-woo-ey'.
Last week & this week in most of the Yoga classes I've been teaching, I've been (re)-introducing some simple breathing (Pranayama) practices. One in particular is incredibly easy to 'learn' & can very quickly bring us to a calmer state-of-mind, a more relaxed body (simply but almost magically, excess physical tension leaving the body through us focusing our mind on the breath) & more energised for the rest of the day/evening ahead.
A book I mentioned a while ago in a previous blog also mentions this type of 'breath'; Dr Rangan Chatterjee refers to it as the '3-4-5' breath & it goes like this:
Breathe in for three,
hold for four & then
breathe out for five.
That's it! Just keep repeating this cycle for anywhere between 2 to 5 or even 10 minutes, with your eyes closed, either sitting tall & relaxed or lying long, loose & relaxed. You can easily practice this at work too, to inject some 'headspace' into your day, to simply rest & refresh your eyes, to perhaps come back to a more rational & balanced frame-of-mind & tackle whatever lays ahead.
When our exhale is longer than our inhale, the relaxation part of our nervous system, the 'parasympathetic' part is activated - & we enter what is called 'rest & digest' mode - where we heal, relax & rejuvenate.
The second breathing practice to incorporate into your daily life/Yoga practice is what is called 'Alternate Nostril Breathing' or Nadi Shodhana. This can be practiced with or without retention (i.e. holding the breath).
It is best to learn the technique of switching between each nostril & getting used to the use of the hand/fingers without retention before attempting the longer 'holding the breath' kind of Nadi Shodhana.
Nadi Shodhana can help calm the mind, make us feel better equipped to handle the everyday stresses that come our way & it also can
Improve our mental focus
Help support our lungs & respiratory system (great for helping sinus issues)
Restore balance in the left & right hemispheres of the brain, helping us feel more internal 'balance' & energy
Rejuvenate the nervous system
We'll be practising this again together this week but for more information on Alternate Nostril Breathing, have a look at this short article.
Would love to hear how you get on - tell me in class or leave a comment.
Stay well & see you on your Yoga mat soon.
Yoga Lili x