Are your days non-stop, stressful and overwhelmingly busy? Or are they serene, peaceful and well-paced? For many of us, our weekdays at least begin with an abrupt awakening from the alarm clock, a dash to get ready for work, breakfast on-the-go, followed by meetings, deadlines, quick lunches, emails and then an evening spent catching up on household chores or looking after the family. Even if your days sound a little calmer than that, it’s likely you’re spending much of your waking time doing, giving and expending energy, rather than receiving and replenishing yourself. A while back, we shared how whilst engaging in focused work, we benefit from taking breaks every 90 minutes or so. This is known as the Ultradian Healing Response, and refers to the natural rhythms we move through during the day. Research shows that after a 90 minute bout of focusing, taking a 20 minute break to re-set can help us learn and retain information more effectively, reduce stress and anxiety, improve energy levels, and enhance our overall wellbeing.
In the very same way, taking regular short breaks throughout the day – think of them as mini restorative moments – can help us step off of the incessant wheel of stress, and into a way of living that flows and helps us feel more at ease. If you’ve ever practiced restorative yoga, you may have noticed the benefits of a calmer nervous system, more mental clarity, and greater ability to relax. The good news is, that you don’t have to spend an hour on your yoga mat to give yourself similar benefits; read on to find out how to create restorative moments throughout the day for less stress and more calm.
It’s no secret that the way we breathe profoundly impacts how we feel. A rapid, shallow breath can stimulate a stress response in the body, whilst calm, slow abdominal breathing can help us move into the rest and digest part of the nervous system, where healing and rebalancing take place. Simply by changing the way you breathe, you can create a restorative moment in your day, and help re-centre yourself. The best thing about this practice is that you can do it pretty much anywhere (as long as you feel it is safe to do so). Bring your awareness to your breath; does it feel fast or slow? Shallow or deep? Then, place your hands on your stomach, and inhale slowly through your nose as though you’re trying to fill your belly with breath. Pause for a moment, then let out a long, slow exhale. Repeat 5 times.
Learn more about using your breath for more calm in Do Breathe: Calm your mind, find focus and get stuff done by Michael Townsend, and Breathe In Breathe Out by Stuart Sandeman, with guidance on restoring your health, resetting your mind, and finding happiness through breathwork.
Mindful Tea Moment
Tea has been a part of meditation and mindfulness practices for thousands of years in the East, but you don’t need to travel far at all to engage in the ancient art too. If your days are non-stop, you may not stop for a tea break very often, so even if you’re sipping away at your desk, this quick restorative moment can help you feel calmer amidst the chaos. To practice, hold your cup of tea and gaze at the cup. Simply notice the colour, shape and texture of the cup; how does it feel in your hands? Can you feel the warmth of the tea through the material? Then, bring the tea up to your nose and inhale the scent. How does it make you feel? Does it bring back any memories? Take a sip, and feel the liquid moving through your mouth and throat. Notice the taste and how your body feels as you drink it. Take a deep breath in and out and place the cup down.
Choose the Pukka Peace Organic Tea, the heart warming Love Tea, or treat yourself to the Wunder Workshop Goddess Tea for your mindful tea moment, or gift them to someone who would benefit from bringing more restorative moments into their day.
OK, so kicking your shoes off at the office might not be the most acceptable way to take a restorative break, but if you work from home or you’re out on lunch, going barefoot brings a myriad of benefits. The concept of earthing – touching bare skin to the earth, helps the body pick up free ions from the earth’s surface that act as antioxidants, and can help lower inflammation, improve immune health, enhance sleep, and reduce stress. To practice, simply take off your shoes and connect your bare feet to the earth. Spend a few minutes standing or walking, and aim to make this a regular restorative moment for the best benefits.
The Nature Meditations Deck provides 60 ways to practice mindfulness in Mother Nature, so you can connect to the healing benefits on a regular basis.
Hum and Sing
Much of our ability to feel stressed or relaxed is down to the vagus nerve, and the messages it relays to the brain. The vagus nerve is a long cranial nerve that runs from the brainstem all the way to the gut, connecting to the vocal cords, heart, diaphragm and other organs along the way. This nerve is constantly sensing what’s happening in the body, and telling the brain whether to stimulate the release of stress hormones, or hormones that help us relax. One of the ways to encourage the brain to send those messages of relaxation to the brain is by humming or singing. By doing this, we gently vibrate the vocal cords and stimulate the vagus nerve to let the brain know everything is a-ok. It only takes a moment, and it doesn’t have to involve a full-on operatic display. To practice, simply hum your favourite song gently, or practice brahmari pranayama, which involves taking a long, low hum as you exhale, mimicking the sound of a bee. If you’re alone or in the right company, let your voice shine and sing!
To make sound a regular part of your practice, use the Mala Collective I Am Love Bracelet to help you stay focused when chanting mantras or affirmations. Simply turn the beads in your hands and count one bead for each mantra.
To benefit from yoga, you don’t have to go to a class or even step on to a yoga mat. Many yoga postures can be practiced or modified so you can make them part of your daily restorative moments. If you’re at home, take a 2 minute break for a restorative child’s pose, which is especially soothing for those busy and demanding days. Use a pillow or Yogamatters Hemp Bolster to support your body as you rest in this pose and bring your awareness to your breath. Viparita Karani or ‘legs up the wall pose’ is another great go-to posture to give your body and mind a restorative moment – simply lie down on the ground with a soft Organic Cotton Yoga Blanket underneath your shoulders and head, lift your legs up and let the wall support you. This posture works even better if you can spare fifteen minutes for it. If you’re out at work and need a mindful moment, practice Tadasana or ‘mountain pose’, by standing tall and rooting your feet into the earth. As you stand, visualise deep roots growing down into the floor from your feet to ground you, and feel your spine lengthen upon each inhale. Whilst at your desk, a few gentle shoulder and neck stretches can also serve as a quick way to help you re-set. Whatever you can manage will go a long way to creating your restorative moments throughout the day.
Use the Yogamatters Hemp Bolster to support your body in child’s pose, and the Organic Cotton Yoga Blanket for legs up the wall pose. To make yoga a more regular part of your routine, find a space to dedicate to your practice, roll out your Reclaim Sticky Mat, set up your blocks and spend a few minutes moving your body each day.
Which tips will you use to help you create restorative moments throughout the day?