Who said you can’t buy time?
If you’re the sort of person who always feels there is not enough time in the day, then think about this – you can actually make more time in your day by taking ten minutes out of it. Ten minutes of relaxation a day effectively adds hours to your week in terms of energy, concentration, productivity, and contentment.
Try these short relaxation routines for ten minutes a day for a month, and prepare to be amazed at the difference it can make.
The best position in which to practice deep breathing is on your back on the floor. However, the great thing about this technique is it can be practiced anywhere, whether you’re sitting, standing, lying, or walking. Place your hands on your abdomen, just above the navel, and breathe through your mouth into your stomach. Feel your stomach rise up under your hands until it is filled with breath, hold the breath for a moment, and then release the breath through your nose. Feel the breath move out from your stomach, through the rib-cage and chest, and then, finally, out of your nose or mouth. Repeat this slow breathing for ten minutes.
During your ten minutes of deep breathing you may feel the need to yawn and stretch as your body unwinds and opens up. Do this and then return to deep breathing.
The key to deep breathing is that you use your stomach and not your chest. If you breathe with your chest, your breathing will be tense, short, and shallow. When you breathe with your stomach your breathing is relaxed, slow, and deep. Ten minutes of deep breathing a day will not only help you to relax in those moments, you will also teach your body to breathe well throughout the day. Most people find that, over time, their breathing pattern becomes more constantly deep and relaxed without even thinking about it.
Deep breathing is also an excellent base technique to incorporate into stretching, visualisation, and meditation.
If you’ve played sports at any stage of your life, you probably know some stretching routines. These can also be used as relaxation techniques. With the help of a fitness instructor or by doing some research yourself, work out several stretches that best target your problematic muscles. Try to include a stretch for each major area of the body including the face, neck, lower and upper back, arms, abdomen, and legs. If you have ever practiced yoga, you can draw on the stretches you used in yoga routines. Use the ten minute routine as a break during your work day, or in the evening. It is best not to stretch immediately after waking as your muscles are not warmed up.
Stretching should always be gentle and only cause a slight tension in the muscle you are extending. If the stretch ever becomes painful, or the tension increases, you should ease off immediately. Always bend from the hips when stretching your back, and take care not to over-extend your neck and shoulders or put too much pressure on problematic joints such as knees and ankles. Breathing deeply throughout each stretch increases the effectiveness of the stretch.
The mind’s eye is a powerful tool and you can practice visualisation with it wherever you are, whether lying on the floor, sitting in a comfortable sofa or, if you have to, in your desk chair at work. All you need to do is close your eyes and picture a beautiful, peaceful place, one in which you feel happiness. It might be a balmy beach, or a cool forest, or an alpine lake, or the top floor of a high rise building, or a patch of sunshine in a favourite room. It doesn’t have to be somewhere you have been either, you can make it up.
Once you feel yourself in this place, take ten whole minutes to enjoy it. What do you hear and see? What can you smell? What do your mind and body feel like in this place? While you are there, take the time to breathe deeply. As you prepare to leave this place, be aware of the heavy, relaxed state of your body. Feel it sinking into your surroundings as you slowly open your eyes and return to your everyday world. Keep the peace of your other place with you as you leave.
The basic premise of meditation is that you release your mind from whatever it’s embroiled in, and remove it from its current context. Sit quietly in a comfortable position and choose a calming word or phrase to focus on – favourite quotes or words from poetry, a book, or scripture are often a good choice. Close your eyes, or focus them about 120 cm (4 ft) in front of you (this is called the meditation spot).
Breathe slowly and naturally, filling the stomach and not the chest. Slowly relax your muscles from head to feet, drawing the tail bone in and lifting the chest and the crown of the head. Start to repeat your word or phrase over and over in your mind, or quietly to yourself. Let your mind release into the word or phrase, and then away. Remain passive and refrain from analysing what you are doing. When other thoughts come to your mind, just say ‘Oh well,’ and gently return to the word or phrase of focus. Burning aromatic oil, incense, and/or candles and dimming lights can help some people to meditate.
Continue to meditate for ten to twenty minutes. It’s best to just open your eyes occasionally to check on the time as using an alarm will end your meditation abruptly and disturb your sense of peace. When you come to the end of your meditation time, sit quietly for a minute or so and gradually open your eyes. Stand up slowly, stretching if you want to, and enter back into the day.