Tight deadlines, cranky co-workers, lack of sleep and crazy schedules can leave us stressed out with little time to unwind. While we can’t escape our chaotic, modern lives, we can do some quick, breathing exercises to help counteract some of our everyday stress.
Tristan Truscott, sensei and founder of the Austin Martial Arts Academy and the Satori Method Academy, uses a quick breathing technique from Yi Quan, a Chinese martial art, to restore balance to his life and help bring inner peace in even the most stressful of times. The best part of all, it only takes a minute or two.
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This technique releases the tension in the core muscles of your body, where the life force and stress is stored. Due to outside influences and living a modern life, these areas of the body can wind up tight and need to be released, Truscott says.
“I think one of the things that happens is that our nervous system gets so bound and so tight that we don’t even notice that we’re stressed,” Truscott says.
After a while feeling stressed can start to become the norm. You might forget what it actually feels like to be relaxed. That’s when this quick, breathing technique can come in:
Step 1: Raise your arms in a position in front of you, almost like a begging dog, with your knuckles facing forward. Then simultaneously tighten all of the muscles in your body while taking in a deep breath. Your legs, arms, stomach and even your face muscles should be tight.
Step 2: Relax your muscles and slowly exhale at the same time. After fully exhaling, lightly shake off all of the muscle tension to recalibrate your body.
Step 3: Place your hands on your belly, or one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Notice where your breath is going and try drawing it down into your belly. In your mind’s eye, draw your awareness from the top of your head all the way down to your belly button and see if you can expand your belly not by pushing with your stomach muscles, but by actually relaxing. Relax your diaphragm and as you breath in, your belly should rise up.
Repeat each step as necessary. At the end, you should not only feel more relaxed, but more present. The exercise helps stimulate the nervous system by increasing the body’s oxygen levels.
“You fed your brain more oxygen through your bloodstream, which helps to clear that mental fog and you’ve helped to stimulate some of these energy channels and centers,” Truscott says.