Top Yoga/Meditation Hacks- Katie Millett
We live on the incredible planet Earth and therefore lucky enough to enjoy some hugely impressive and helpful technological advances however, with this has come speed – on every level! I don’t know about you guys but I feel as if it is becoming harder and harder for us to remain grounded, calm and anxiety free as we maneuver our way through modern life.
A constant demand and drain from social media, blue light, stressful jobs, busy commutes, indoor/outdoor air pollution, toxicity within our food and the products we consume all contribute to our whole being (mentally and physically) being under constant attack and therefore increasing levels of inflammation within our bodies. This, is where we meet disease and mental health problems.
Somewhere amongst this ‘chaos’ we need to find and maintain balance in order to lead the healthy, happy lives that we deserve. Especially for BumbleZest readers, I have shared some of my top tips that I practice daily, to keep me grounded and feeling in control – enjoy and let me know how you get on!
1) BREATH AWARENESS
Breathing consciously has a biological effect on our mental, emotional, and physical state. Conscious breathing should be something we all practice, yogi or not! Firstly, connecting with the breath is a powerful method used to bring the practitioner to the present moment. When we focus our awareness on the breathing process, we become present, let go of the past and future as we focus on the moment within and around the breath. Slowing down the breath has a large impact on our emotional state. The cerebral cortex is activated through consciously slowing down the exhalation. The cerebral cortex sends inhibitory impulses to the respiratory center in the midbrain. These inhibitory impulses from the cortex overflow into the area of the hypothalamus, which is concerned with emotions – clever huh?
Conscious breathing and extension of the exhalation can be practiced anytime and anywhere. It will automatically calm the nervous system and temper a racing mind. It is a form of meditation that we should ALL practice – no excuses! Whether you are sitting quietly, brushing your teeth or on your morning commute – this one is a must!
HOW TO HACK – find and ‘observe the breath’
STEP 1 – ‘tune in’ and ‘watch’ your breath. No judgment required (be careful not to criticize or label – this is a practice of non-attachment)
STEP 2 – begin to notice the following:
- How does it feel?
- Where does it travel?
- Is there restriction anywhere?
- Is there free flow?
- Is there a colour that comes up with the flow of breath?
- Anything else that comes up – explore it!
STEP 3 – when you have found the breath and checked in, move on to lengthening the exhalationBegin to exhale for 1 or 2 counts longer than the inhalation. i.e. if you inhale for a count of ‘4’, exhale for a count of ‘5’ or ‘6’
Keep this up for as long as you wish – anytime, anywhere – enjoy!
You want to drop body fat? Lift weights, it will turbo charge your metabolism, strip away fat and drastically change your body shape.Want to run a marathon? Learn to squat and deadlift to build strong and stable glutes, hamstrings and core muscles that will make your running easier, more enjoyable and pain free. Want to build a great physique that looks good and moves well? Step away from the resistance machines and learn to squat, press, row and deadlift with free weights.
Whatever stage you may be at with your training, your goal should always be to continually learn and improve. Performing the same few movements over and over again won’t benefit anyone. Training is all about challenging your body to change. So find new and innovative ideas and movements that will challenge your body and mind and give a huge boost to your training sessions.
2. COMING TO NOW – mindfulness
My guru in this field, Mike Newell, describes the ego mind as a swinging pendulum. From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep the ego drags the ‘mind’ backwards and forwards from the past to the future, trying to find its next ‘fix’ of fear or perhaps what it has come to recognize as ‘pleasure’ as we search endlessly for ‘happiness’. As thoughts and emotions race through our minds the pendulum swings faster and faster and soon we find ourselves lost in the momentum, unable to slow thoughts down to find stillness or clarity. It is here we find anxiety and unhappiness.
We need to be able to slow our thoughts down, whilst still operating our every lives in order to find happiness.
HOW TO HACK – find yourself in ‘NOW’.
STEP 1: Stop what you are doing
STEP 2: OBSERVE and tune into the senses – TOUCH, SMELL, SIGHT, TASTE, and HEARING
STEP 3: Enquire the following:
- What signals are being sent into the brain
- What can be FELT? I.e. clothes on skin, hair resting on the skin etc.
- What sounds are HEARD? A car engine, a door slam, rustling leaves, gentle breeze etc.
- Repeat the above for all 5 senses
- WELCOME TO NOW!
For beginners, you may only stay in ‘now’ for 1 or 2 seconds before your mind drags you away, this is normal. In time and with practice, the time spent in ‘now’ will lengthen (5-7 seconds) and it will become easier to get there – I promise! This is a truly magical practice and experience – life changing for many!
3. OPEN YOUR HEART – physically & energetically
Yoga is a multi-layered practice, we work with movement, postures and breath allowing us access to open the physical body as well as our energetic body – our thoughts, emotions and whole state of being which are often suppressed over many years.
By practicing ‘heart opening’ postures, we ease open and stretch stiff muscles, tissues and fascia that can become tight through tension, rounding at desks, exercise or protecting our energetic ‘heart space’ through times of stress and anxiety.
Once this space is ‘opened’, we often experience a physical release as well as an emotional letdown. The effect of this can be powerful, altering how we treat ourselves and others – sometimes long after we have left the mat!
We need to be getting our heart open every single day!
HOW TO HACK – practice ‘heart opening’ postures
Restorative practice – lay over a bolster/rolled up blanket
- Sit/place your buttocks on the end of a bolster/rolled up towel or blanket
- Lay back and ensure your shoulders are resting on the floor (normally the top of the bolster would rest in line with bra strap – non bra wearers have to imagine this)
- Google has great videos for detailed instructions if needed
- Upward dog
- Google has great videos to walk you through these – coming soon to my instagram videos – stay tuned!
4) MOVE YOUR BODY – boost serotonin
Serotonin is commonly known as the ‘happy hormone’ and there is a stack of research out there showing that exercise increases both the production and release of serotonin. Serotonin can help regulation of mood, appetite, sleep and improve cognitive functions, including memory. This is a no brainer, right?
Although this research is linked, in particular, to aerobic exercise I strongly advise getting out and moving your body in any way possible to get that serotonin flowing.
HOW TO HACK: find a form of exercise that works for you in terms of time and enjoyment. Do not force yourself to do movement that you do not enjoy, this is counterproductive– there is something out there for everyone!
My favorites – put on some music and dance like no one is watching! Yoga, brisk walk in nature, cycling – just move your body!
5. GET UPSIDE DOWN – legs up the wall
Legs-Up-The-Wall (Viparita Karani) is a restorative, gentle inversion which can be practiced almost anywhere. Although this promotes a sense of relaxation, it can also be helpful to reenergize during a long day. I often practice this in between clients, in clinic, to give myself a boost of energy – it works!
It is simple pratice but has many benefits such as draining stagnant fluids away from the ankles/legs, helps with water retention, calming for the nervous system (helps to shift into rest and digest) – just to name a few!
HOW TO HACK – practice with legs elevated up a wall or against any vertical surface. Practiced before bed time will help aid a good night’s sleep.
I hope you have enjoyed my tips and find them useful! I would love to hear how you get on and answer any questions you may have for me (I love questions!), please join me over on Instagram and let me know!
Health & Happiness,
The Chelsea Wellness Coach
(Formerly Katie Millett Health)
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