by Dr Anne Combrinck (PhD)
How do we bring balance and harmony into the average person’s hectic modern lifestyle? We need to learn how to do simple, quick meditations to reconnect with spirit; to prepare nutritious vegetarian meals easily; to exercise between chores and at our convenience; to do breathing practices that cool, calm and release stress, improve the immune system, or invigorate and energise.
Morning Routine to prepare for the day: Set the alarm for just five minutes earlier than usual. While in bed take a few moments to give the whole body a good stretch – push into your heels; point your toes; arch your whole back; spread your shoulder blades apart; stretch your arms above your head. Squeeze your whole face and then have a good yawn and a deep breath in and out. Repeat this once more.
Now lie on your back for a few moments and think about five things that you are grateful for today. Think of five new ones each morning. Have a deep breath, another good stretch, roll onto your side and swing your legs onto the floor. Now the day can begin!
Slipping in some Breathing practices
At intervals during the day do some deep, slow rhythmical breaths. Feel the belly expand outwards with inhalation and back inwards on the exhalation. This breathing is invigorating and uplifting if we make the inhalations longer and deeper than the exhalations, and soothing and calming if we lengthen the exhalations – so depending on how your day is progressing adjust your breathing rhythm.
This simple breathing can also be used throughout the day at various times, for example when stopped at the red traffic light, in the queue at the supermarket, just before an important interview, etc.
During the Day
If there is not sufficient time to spend doing a 20-minute Exercise practice incorporate these into your normal routine. For example:
1. In the shower: Stretch and bend, twist the torso around, balance on one leg, arch backwards, reach upwards under the beautiful warm water.
2. In the kitchen: Hold onto the counter and do squats; do a side bend by separating your feet, hands on hips and bending the upper body over sideways. Turn backwards from the sink hold on with arms back and lean the hips forwards to get a good stretch to the front of the body and contract the back muscles to strengthen these.
3. Seated at the desk: Interlace your fingers over your chair back and lift the arms up – to stretch open into the chest area, prevent rounding of the upper back and release shoulder tightness; circle your wrists and flick your fingers in and out; keep your shoulders loose; circle your ankles; do a few eye exercises. Don’t forget to do some deep, full breathing.
4. Waiting in the car: Do some tummy pull-ins, really pull the belly muscles in tight as you exhale, squeeze them and then relax as you inhale. Repeat often for a toned, firm abdomen. Do some neck and face exercises – turn the head slowly from side to side; tuck the chin into the collarbones and lift up high; wiggle your jaw from side to side; yawn; move your eyebrows up and down.
5. In a queue: This is your chance to keep the perineum toned with the Kegel exercise – pull the perineal muscles in and up, hold and then release – this will prevent or cure incontinence problems, and help with digestive and colon problems too. No one can see!
6. Other: Do some lunges while washing out the bath; stretch and bend while hanging out the washing; skip while you interact with your children for five minutes – they’ll love it; notice the birds, bees and other animals as you walk the dog around the block – encourage the whole family to join you. Put on some fun music and dance – on your own, with the children, with the whole family. Sing out loud – it will exercise the diaphragm, the lungs and bring so much joy.
Quiet Times during the Day
Take two or five minute breaks throughout the day to reconnect with your inner being. Allow yourself to become quiet by focusing on each breath as it flows in and out. If a thought enters into your mind, mentally say the word “thinking” and then return your awareness to the flowing breath. With practice soon this will be easy to accomplish and you will look forward to those few moments each hour or two. Meditate like this for ten or twenty minutes at the end of the day just before bed.
Other ways to experience time-out for a few moments is to focus on something in nature – really look at the clouds, that bird sitting on the fence, the colour in an autumn leaf, the shape of a blade of grass. Let your ears tune into the rustle of the leaves in the breeze, the call of a ha-de-dah, the rush of a wave on the beach. Smell the wet earth after the rain, the fragrance of the flower on your desk, the freshly brewed herbs in your teacup.
Allow the senses to absorb to their fullest and your will find yourself completely in the moment, in the now – and that is the only time we are truly happy and in our natural state.