Easy Practices To Reduce Stress
You've probably heard that yoga and mindfulness can help alleviate stress levels, but most of the time people associate that with sitting down in a 'proper' yoga class. That's great for a reset, but having simple mini practices in your tool kit that you can pull out anywhere, at any time of the day can be even more empowering.
Here are a few for you to practice - even if you only have the time to have a couple of breaths it's better than nothing! Here are a range options to do whether you're lying down, seated or standing up; whether you're at your work desk, parked in your car before you race outside, when you're in bed or even standing at the kitchen bench.
Long exhale breathing
Our inhale breath is associated with our fight or flight response; when we get stressed out we typically begin taking shorter breaths into our chest. Allowing your breath to deepen and continue down towards your belly - especially focusing on lengthening the exhale - is like a manual reset to shift your body back into rest and digest mode.
HOW TO DO IT: You can do this standing in tadasana, seated or lying down. Lengthen your spine, relax your body and close your eyes. Slowly inhale through your nose for a count of five, then exhale through your nose for a count of seven. Continue to breathe in this way for six breaths. Slip open the eyes.
In yoga this is called Sama Vritti Pranayama - or Four Part Square Breath. With this practice we're looking to equalise each part of your breath. As you do the following, visualise drawing a square with your breath - inhale (draw a line upwards), hold your breath at the top (drawing a line across), exhale (draw a line downwards), and hold your breath at the bottom (drawing the line back across to connect back to the start).
HOW TO DO IT: You can do this standing in tadasana, seated or lying down. Lengthen your spine, relax your body and close your eyes. Inhale through your nose for a count of three, hold for a count of three, exhale for a count of three, hold for a count of three. If you like you can extend this by adding one count the next round (up to a maximum of six). If you feel anxious or uncomfortable at any time release the practice and breathe normally. Continue to breathe this way for six breaths. Slip open the eyes.
Alternate nostril breath
This yoga pranayama, or breathing technique, is also known as Nadi Shodhana. Traditionally it's used to purify your energy channels and create a sense of balance and calm in the body.
HOW TO DO IT: In a seated position, sit up tall, relax your shoulders and face, and close your eyes. Place the index finger and middle finger of your right hand on the centre of your forehead between your eyebrows (your third eye). Hover your thumb over your right nostril, and your ring finger over your left nostril.
Use your thumb to close your right nostril as you breathe deeply in through your left side. Still holding your breath in, close your left side off with your ring finger as you release your thumb and exhale through your right side. Inhale through your right side, close it off with your thumb as you lift your ring finger, and exhale the air through your left side. Inhale left side, hold the breath, close off the left side lift the thumb and exhale on the right side. Continue to breathe in this way for 6-8 rounds. Slip open the eyes.
TIP: If you find the mudra too complicated or you would rather not do it, you can simply visualise the shift of breath from left to right.
Mini mindfulness practice
Sometimes it can just help to find your way into the present for a quick reset if you're feeling stressed out, angry or worried during your day. Here's
HOW TO DO IT: Whether you're lying down, standing or seated, find length to your spine, relax your body, close your eyes and take deep slow inhales/exhales through your nose. Find an even breath by applying a count of 3 to the inhale and the exhale. Focus on any sounds you can hear around you, the sound of your own breath. The temperature of the space around you. Any thoughts that come into your mind, acknowledge them and allow them to drift away without dwelling on them like clouds passing through the sky. Continue for 6-10 breaths, then allow your breathing to return to normal. Notice the sounds around you again, the connection points where your body touches the ground or other surfaces. Then slip open the eyes.
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