In both our workplace and home lives it’s very clear that we often find ourselves in situations where we are tirelessly burning the candles at both end, whether it’s trying to balance our hectic works schedules with our home life or looking after children, grandchildren, caring for loved ones, giving back to community and so on, we quite understandably, often forget to stop, take a breath and take conscious care of ourselves. It’s never on purpose, it’s just that often by the time we get to catch a breath, we are running on empty and end up falling into a slump on our beds or the couch or the floor…whichever is closest really.
But the truth is that unless we start giving more focus to filling up our own cups a little more, the endless routine of running the race we put ourselves in could end up causing us extra unwanted stress, health problems, physical pain and even anxiety or depression.
“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is Relax” Mark Black
It seems strange doesn’t it when so often we’ve been taught that unless we’re working hard we aren’t being productive but there are so many beautiful benefits to giving ourselves time to relax and the more we can do it (without the guilt) the more we can reap the benefits.
By getting ourselves into a state of relaxation we are not just giving our physical bodies time to repair but we’re also looking after our emotional and mental health.
I know the struggle to find even 15 minutes sometimes can seem challenging, I often run that loop, but when I am honest with myself, I know that there are many minutes I’ve spent scrolling social media getting lost on those videos and click bait traps or surfing netflix for another season of something that often ends up getting me more stressed then I was before. So put it in the diary, 15 minutes to be kind to you, your body, your health, your emotional wellbeing and in the end, your loved ones too, because when you’re feeling good, they’re good.
The best way to start creating this time for yourself is to make it a routine, wherever and whenever it is, just try to keep it regular and if you can at the same time in the morning, afternoon or evening.
You can start with these easy 5 steps…
STEP 1. Put the kettle on…there is nothing like looking forward to a cup of tea, particularly if you can make a beautiful herbal brew that is relaxing and calming, think chammolmile, lavender or one of my favourites serenity by Mayde Tea. Just taking the action of making your tea will signal that you are about to go into a rest period. Spoil yourself a little and have a special tea cup and blend for this. You’ve probably heard of the Japanese Tea Ceremony called Chanoyu where a whole ritual is created to make a green tea called matcha. They say that the making of the tea is as important as the drinking it, it’s using special tea and utensils to create the tea from one’s heart. The Japanese tea ceremony represents harmony, respect, purity and tranquillity.
STEP 2. Diffuse some essential oils or if you have a roller, make a special relaxing blend and apply to your wrists, temples and feet.
My favourite oils for relaxation are:
Lavender – one of the most well known oils of all, it’s been used since ancient times, and is known for its relaxing qualities, it can help reduce anxiety, ease feelings of tension and help give you a restful nights sleep.
Frankincense – a beautiful oil for meditation. It helps promote feelings of peace, relaxation, satisfaction and overall wellness.
Vetiver – comes from the grass family, I love vetiver because it feels instantly grounding and calming. It’s also said to have immune supporting properties and is another magical goody for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Rosemary – I know that people don’t often associate rosemary with relaxation as we tend to think of it more as a food seasoning but as an oil it has many wonderful health benefits including reducing nervous tension and fatigue… so if you’re feeling either of these, then try a little rosemary and it may be the perfect remedy to pick you right up.
STEP 3. Find a quiet place/space in your house where you can light a candle and perhaps even put a beautiful vase of flowers or crystals ect. A space that’s made for you to take time to connect with yourself. Over time you will find this special space grows as you spend more time there…I now have a whole room I love to retreat to (but being a mum of 3 boys I kind of like to have my own woman cave!) When you create a space for yourself, it reminds you to take time out… just like creating your own tea ceremony or diffusing some favourite oils…all of these rituals over a period of time help us find that instant state of calm, peace and relaxation that we are looking for.
STEP 4. Now you are in your space, with your special tea, your calming oils, your glowing candle…you are ready to take some time to restore the body. An effective restorative yoga pose you can use is called Viparita Karani (elevated legs Up the Wall Pose), a well known posture that many people use intuitively when they are feeling very fatigued. This is a wonderful posture for relaxation because it is an inversion where the head is resting below the heart. Renowned restorative yoga expert Judith Hanson Laseter lists the benefits for Viparita Karani as; “Helping to reduce muscular fatigue in the legs, Drain excess fluid from the legs, Quiet the brain and soothe the mind, Open the chest and lungs and stimulate the abdominal organs, relieve exhaustion and fatigue, and may even help relieve anxiety and depression”. With all of these amazing benefits in one posture, your health is deserving of at least 15 minutes of this dedicated time to taking care of you.
To aid yourself in this posture it would be great to set yourself up with a yoga mat if you have one, a blanket and an eye bag or towel to cover your eyes with.
Place your mat against the wall (short end), fold the blanket length wise and place it on the mat about 10 -20 cms away from the wall depending on the length of your hamstrings, you also want the blanket to be long enough to place your head on.
To enter the pose, slide into the wall hips first, leaning to one side, gently roll over on to your back and at the same time lift your legs up to the wall. Once you’re there you may like to take a strap to gently place around the thighs (not to tight), to help support the legs in place. If it is too much strain on the hamstrings, try moving back from the wall slightly.
Place your eye pillow on your eyes and turn your palms face up…start to feel the beautiful benefits of this posture begin to take effect immediately and sail away, sail away, sail away…
STEP 5. Breathe….Once you have found yourself comfortable in viparita karani the most important thing you can do for yourself from here is breathe. In yoga we call this pranayama, prana meaning life force and ayama meaning extension or lengthen, it’s also often referred to as the breath of life or extension of the breath. A simple pranayama to start with is the Dirga pranayama, meaning (3 part breath).
To start place one hand on the abdomen and the other on the chest just above the heart. Inhale slowly though the nose filling up the belly first, then the rib cage and lastly the chest all the way to the collar bones, tune into the slight pause at the end of the inhalation and then slowly exhale through the nose relaxing the chest first, then the rib cage and lastly feeling the belly relax, exhale the breath completely. You may like to try it with counts of 3 or 6 as you focus on each different part of the breath. Repeat this cycle for as long as you can without stressing the body or the breath, on your last round finish with the exhalation. You will find the more you practice the longer you can sustain the rhythm. Dirga pranayama is perfect for centring and grounding yourself. Ahh Bliss at last!
So there you have 5 easy steps to take you on your own special 15 minute retreat. Be restored, be renewed, be reenergised but be warned, with increased practice…you will want to stay on retreat forever!