The energising breath

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Often, and especially at Yoga, we talk about breathing patterns to calm us down, to help us to relax, to unwind. But we can use the breath to engerize, too. I tend to use it at times when I feel tired after a bad night sleep, struggling with jet lag or when I feel exhausted during a work out. It is kind of a quick-fix!

There are several “energising breaths” out there but here I will share my to “go-to” versions.

Attention:  Some breathing exercises may cause dizziness to some people, especially when new to it, or exhausted. If you start to feel dizzy – stop immediately and return to normal breathing!
Do not practise breathing exercises with a cold or when you encounter any other breathing discomfort!

Quick short breathing

  • Inhale normal (not actively) so that the muscles in the chest are relaxed, preferably through the nose
  • Exhale through the mouth with a quick, short exhalation, the upper chest will compress a bit
  • The inhalation will be longer than the exhalation (so an opposite to the relaxation breath!)
  • Depending on how I feel I repeat this quick breathing 10-20 times

I tend to use this breathing during exercise, when I need to get some energy back during a run and such.

Another one is the “Rapid Breath of Fire”. It is a good one to use when you sit comfortable, and need a “pick me up” while you work, study or simply have to go on with the day.

  • Sit comfortable, if you can try to sit tall
  • Relax the stomach muscles
  • Try to keep breathing in and out through the nose only, so keep the mouth closed
  • Inhale deeply through the nose
  • Exhale through the nose
  • Then begin to breathe faster, rapidly in and out
  • Focus on the navel area and pump that area in and out with each breath, pushing the belly button towards the spine with each quick exhalation
  • Repeat 5-15 times

The breath will be shallow to be quick.
Try to keep the in- and exhalation equally fast.

 

Wishing you a lovely day,

AK

 

 

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Create a glimpse of mindfulness

Life can be stressful and hectic and we easily lose track of time and what does us good! Add to that the pressure of “you should” – exercise, meditate, be mindful, relax, sleep, read, educate further –  “at least every day for an x-amount” of time to succeed.

Don`t we all already have enough pressure and “to-do`s” in the day to day life? Why not simply embrace that we do something regularly but no matter for how long?

I often speak to others about relaxation, meditation, mindfulness or to simply be. But a lot are put off by the minimum time they “have to” dedicate every day to make it beneficial. I include myself here. I simply can`t dedicate 30-45 min daily. Already thinking that I “have to” makes me edgy – already working against the whole purpose of doing it. So in the past it ended for me in barely doing anything. Yet knowing that it does me good and I should do something. Leaving me frustrated. And so the dilemma begins. Can you resonate?

So instead of a time pressure I change my mindset and decided that: Doing something is better than nothing.

Until today I barely manage the 30-45 min recommendations but I benefit throughout the day from several “glimpses of mindfulness” as I call them. Just to simply become more aware in normal day-to-day situations and to take a moment to simply be, to notice small things like:

  • listening to the raindrops falling on the umbrella
  • watching the clouds go by and “name” their shapes
  • the smell and feeling of soap on my hands
  • be fully present when brushing my teeth
  • the way the water feels when having a shower
  • feeling my feet strong, firm and grounded on the floor
  • feeling the movement of my feet when I walk (and how it changes on different grounds, in different shoes)
  • simply gazing away into the nothing-ness
  • noticing the trees, the shape and colour of the leaves or the flowers when I walk
  • being really there while preparing a meal, while I cut the vegetables, stir the pot,
  • closing the eyes and really focusing on the sip of the coffee, tea, wine or water
  • experiencing the feeling, sensation and taste of the chocolate piece melting in my mouth
  • feeling the ice-cold drink and its condensation on the outside of the glass on a hot summers day
  • closing the eyes and feel the body sensation while going through the sun salutation sequence
  • or if I can do it I will spend 5, 10, 15 minutes to really meditate!
  • the list of small glimpses could go on…

It is not always easy, especially when one is out and about and busy. But I have a little rattle, a kind of bell in my bag and often when I walk I hear the little sound and it reminds me to slow down, to breathe, to be aware even if just for a short moment – for a little “glimpse”.

And it calms me down, no matter how hectic it is around me.  A moment of full awareness, giving me some great benefit without the time comittment, yet putting me at ease.

Of course a dedicated meditation or mindfulness practice is fantastic and super beneficial, there is no doubt about that. But striving for it during times when we may not be able to dedicate the recommended timeframe to it is wrong, too, I think.

To me, relaxation, meditation, mindfulness or how ever you may want to call it is not only about a certain time frame! It is not only about sitting upright, being still or lying down in a quite room. I won`t argue, that is often the ideal situation. But our situation is often not that ideal. And for me it is therefore so much more important to adapt and to become aware within my day to day life.

To be able to halt, stop, breathe, and to really be present in that moment, in the strangest situation and location! 

So stop looking for the perfect situation. Do not let the lack of a perfect scenario take away from the beneficial experience of becoming fully aware and “mindful” through your normal day. Rather learn to create your daily “glimpses of mindfulness”! No matter where or for how long!
Try it and you will hopefully see how even the smallest moments can put you at ease. 

Have a lovely day,

AK

Have fun and stay fit with a short beep test

Summer holidays started or are about to start. And if you have younger kids you know that means (very) limited time for yourself, let alone sports. Whether with kids, your partner, friends or alone a fun way to keep active and to increase endurance and speed for everybody is the “beep test”.

In short a beep test is a timed interval run of 20m within the beeps and your speed will have to increase by level.

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All you need are a 20m stretch to run, running shoes and a beep test, eg this one on youtube (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=L9OTnZI9gYo)

Try it, it is a great way for a short fitness outing with everybody!
“The great thing about the beep test is it won’t take you long at all. The vast majority of people will be done before they reach level 13, which takes less than 14 minutes. If you made it to this stage you’d have run just over 2.5 km, which is equivalent to 1.6 mile.”

More detailed information about the beep test can be found here:
http://www.5-a-side.com/fitness/the-beep-test-a-comprehensive-guide/

Why not use the holiday to track your improvements?

Happy “beeping” summer,

Have a lovely day
AK

A tiny smile can go a long way

Sometimes it is in the most smallest, most subtle things…

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I have to confess that I was doubtful when I heard that we were about to practice the “gentle smile” (half smile) during our Mindfulness training. I immediately had an image of a fake smile popping up. But I soon learned how wrong my perception was and what huge impact this small yet strong practice can have on my own personal well being. All within a short time, all with a simple, barely noticeable tiny smile.

It is known that the facial muscle are interlinked with the emotional part of the brain. Feelings are often linked to our facial expressions. And after a few weeks of practise I must admit that this tiny “smile” does indeed help to feel less tense, less stressed and more at ease. At times it even spreads joy.

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For the practise itself I would put the attention onto the “half” smile, in fact, it is even less – no fake smile needed or wanted here!
It is more like a gentle lift at the outsides of the mouth. It is a soft, almost an imperceptible smile. Yet this tiny change of muscles around your mouth can have a huge impact on loosening the jaw, the neck and the shoulder muscles. I even feel my eyes and the “forehead frown” relax. It is like a positive overall process taking place in the face and upper body and eventually spreading all over.

And as for all the Mindfulness practise, lifting the sides of your mouth does not mean you did not have a tough, hard day, that everything is perfect or that you are asked to pretend to be happy, joyful, cheerful!  Not at all, it is simply a little tool to help us to come back to the moment, to be present in the here and now and to release tension if needed. And if you allow yourself to really be present during this tiny exercise you may be surprised about the huge impact. At least it works for me. Why don’t you give it a try right now?!

It does not take more then to simply take a deep breath in and to gently lift the sides of your mouth the tiniest bit when you exhale. Take a few breaths like that or sit a few minutes or longer to experience the sensation spreading further. What ever your time allows in this moment!

As said, often it is in the smallest things!
And this is not a smile for anybody else but just you!

Have a lovely day

AK

Just for a day – no complaints

Before I even start – do not get me wrong, we all have crappy days, times that pull us down, when all and everybody seems to be too much. And we are all entitled to feel like that at times.

But often it seems to me that that is what we mainly do; seeing the negative, complaining,  just simply overlooking the good around us, no matter how small it is. Funny, sad and kind of bizarre how we can get upset over the small negatives, but overlook and find joy in the small positives or just take them as “normal”, isn’t it?

You don’t believe me and think you are different, then why don’t you join me? I invite you that just for a day we let go of all complaints – the ones in our minds and the ones spoken aloud!

Looking more at the positive gives so much joy,
yet it seems to be so much harder to do! 

So, just for a day no complaints of any sorts about the weather, the kids, the neighbours, the partner, the parents, the in-laws, the bad-hair-day, the service, the food, the too hot / too cold coffee, the co workers, the boss, the friends, the to-do-list, the studies, the upcoming summer holidays, the bad night sleep, the exhaustion…the whatever…

Just for a day – no complaint. Think you can do it and feel the difference?

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If you want to really see how you are doing, take a notepad and make telly marks whenever you find yourself drifting away into a complaint. Or if you want to take it further, place a dollar, a euro, 100yen into a jar for every spoken and “thought” complaint on that day.  You may be surprised by the amount of ice-cream you can buy the following day!

And if you hear and notice yourself going into a complaint? Don’t beat yourself up over it. Sadly, it is so much easier to focus on the negative and therefore I think it is time to train our minds to shift to the more positive again!

Becoming aware and simply letting go of that “thought complaint”
is a first big step already! 

After all it is up to each of us how we deal with the “complaint situations”…surely rain can suck at times, but we can put a positive spin to it, too, and decide to jump through the puddles and to dance in the rain instead!

Have a lovely, complaint free, day

AK

Please feel free to join me on Facebook for some smaller, more regular thoughts on staying “at ease”, too!  https://www.facebook.com/ateaseandmore/

 

 

S.T.O.P. practice

We all know those moments when we feel upset, pressured, overwhelmed or uncomfortable. Especially in such situations we tend to become disconnected to what is actually happening around us. Here comes a little awareness exercise I got to know during my mindfulness course. It may come in helpful to be be more “there”, in the present moment, to get out of the auto-pilot and disconnection we may experience.

But it can as well be an interesting practise to try when we experience something positive, or something neutral as it brings back awareness to what we actually do and experience at that moment.

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S– Stop; Pause – Check in with your thoughts / feelings / sensations. Even if uncomfortable, acknowledge your experience.

T – Take a deep breath in, exhale with awareness. Use the breath as an anchor

O – Observe; Look – notice what is happening around and within you, bring awareness to your body, your posture and facial expressions (head, heart, body)

P – Proceed; Continue; Participate explore your options, how does it feel to respond mindfully rather than to react mechanically? Make a choice of action.

Sometimes a quick halt in what we are doing can go a long way to find the balance back!

Have a lovely day,

AK

Thoughts – they can be so simple

I recently came across the “flow mindfulness workbook” and one article got my immediate attention, it was about “a busy head” (written by Otje van der Lelij). Going deeper into why we do take everything that we have in our mind so seriously.

Do you find yourself imagining the worst case scenario, a situation where you encounter embarrassment, anger, sadness? Do you worry before you even started? Well, you are in good company, a lot of us do that, me included! But as the writer puts it:
“Thoughts are just thoughts and not a reflection of the truth. […] Often, we are sunk so deeply in thought that we forget to be present in the now.”

Thinking and escaping into our mind is good, if we manage to not go into the wrong direction, to not allow our thoughts to drag us down; but instead manage to catch them before we go down that path. And Mindfulness brings awareness to this thought process. We become aware of our thoughts, the behaviour and emotions that may result out of them. And by being aware, we are able to act on those thoughts, to not let our mind go into that direction.

“You can’t influence which thoughts you have, but you can decide what to do with them.” (Brandsma). And a friend put it so spot on during a recent Skype call when we spoke about my concerns and worries; “anxiety comes from focusing on the future, stay focused on the present!

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Well, those are thoughts I will take with me and try to focus on. Time to put Mindfulness into another area of my life now, too. Time to be aware of hindering thoughts, to be present especially now, when I start venturing out into new fields.
How about you, can you relate or are you already at that stage?

Have a lovely day,
stay present,

AK

you can as well follow at ease under https://www.facebook.com/ateaseandmore/