A Quick and Simple Stress Release for Mind and Body

You know those times when things are getting a little on top of you and then you notice your shoulders are slumped as if in a defeated posture, or when you are getting physically tired your breathing is not deep and open, then you start to yawn and feel like a good stretch?

Tiredness from mental and emotional workload can be shifted fast. For example, have you ever been really tired, feeling like there’s not much left in the tank, then when you relax and watch a good movie or get into an upbeat conversation or phone call with a good friend you suddenly have your energy back?

The speed in which that happens shows how much of the time our energy levels are tied in with mind as much as body. Much of our tiredness, stress and mental states are tied in with our posture, self talk and many ways we contract inside or shut down when we are resisting or struggling with something.

Underlying fear, stress, anxiety or anger and emotional battle readiness to deal with ongoing challenges are examples of emotional tones and psychological states that cause energy drain. They get worse when prolonged over hours, days or weeks. For some people, these states may even become part of their normal way of functioning from a difficult phase in their life.

Conscious breathing synchronised with simple simple body movements can be the fastest way to feel inner balance, peace and wellbeing. It is also the fastest way to energise and shift your state of mind.

Physiological studies support the experience we get when we get a big smile happening or straighten the spine and start breathing deeply. They show a massive amount of chemical reactions take place when we ‘strike the pose’ and the right stimulation to the nervous system releases the endorphins (the bodies happy bio-chemistry). Just try right now, one long deep inhale and exhale through your nose with a big smile on your face and see how that feels in your whole body.

Using the principles of qigong and physiology there is a simple sequence you can do to release stress, clear your head and energise yourself. Qigong is an ancient art developed and refined over centuries to get energy and blood flowing through the right channels and is used for health and longevity. It incorporates breath, movement and relaxed focus of mind.

Here’s a little sequence to try that feels good and shifts your energy before you get down to work, or when you need some energisation or stress release. Once you have practiced a couple of times, this takes less than three minutes.

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, toes a little inward, and knees dropped in a slight relaxed bend.
  2. Tilt the hips and pelvic floor forward with the spine and neck straight. Arms are relaxed by your side with palms facing forward.
  3. Take a deep breath into your lower abdomen with a relaxed smile on your face and the feeling of a smile in your heart. Do this three times in through the nose and out through the mouth – long and deep.
  4. After the three breathes, breath in as you bring your hands into prayer position in front of your chest, then continue the arms and hands fully stretched over your head as you complete the inhale.
  5. Exhale as outstretched arms and open hands slowly come down to shoulder height.
  6. Inhale again into the lower abdomen, then flex your whole body – start with tightening the buttocks, pelvic floor and abdomen, then flexing torso, legs and feet, arms and hands. Hold for 3-4 seconds, then release the tension and breath, letting your hands slowly come down to your sides.
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 five times, bringing arms up and out, inhaling into the dynamic tension then releasing.
  8. Keeping hips and legs in the same posture, finish a relaxed deep breath into the abdomen, raising hands palms up to the sides of the chest, then\ timed with a relaxed exhale, turn the palms down and lower them to your sides. Repeat this three times.
  9. Finally, bring your feet together, arms by your side, hips still slightly tilted so there is subtle tension in the pelvic floor and do a couple of normal breathes engaging the lower abdomen gently. Chin is in, spine and neck long, straight as if lifted. Relax your mind and feel through your whole body down into the earth beneath your feet. Feel your hips relaxed yet stable and set, your upper body straight relaxed and light.
  10. Open your eyes and you are ready to take that relaxed and centred energy shift and mind-body awareness with you into whatever you are doing. See if you can keep a small percentage of your attention on your breath and inner body sensations as you engage in your next task.

Photo credit: K. Kendall on Visual Hunt/CC BY

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