I don’t practice yoga as much as I’d like. My priorities fall elsewhere when I have that rare moment to myself (namely working out myself and spending time with my wife). However if I could, I would practice yoga every day, but I can’t. Apart from the muscular flexibility and overall range of motion benefits, the one thing I enjoy the most about yoga is the calming effect it brings. The other day however, I had a moment of clarity whilst breathing in the fresh air between Bootcamp sessions… even if we don’t have the time, we can still take the basic breathing principles and apply them briefly in our every day lives, if only for one minute.
I call this my (patent-pending!) 60-second Manly Meditation. My reasons for calling this My Manly Meditation are threefold. Firstly, it is a great solution for businessmen, who are travelling and working a lot. High cortisol from chronic stress, I find to be the largest problem in this demographic (young mothers come in a close second). I am speaking generally here of course as this method can be put to great effect by businessmen, businesswomen, busy parents or anyone who feels they are low on time and/or high on stress. Secondly, meditation traditionally has a slightly feminine association and men tend to feel less comfortable with it – so I’m trying to push that! Finally, because I first came across the power of breathing for relaxation in Manly, Sydney, where I lived and played rugby a few years ago and met a very inspirational yoga teacher.
Although to most of us, meditation seems like some elusive, exotic and unachievable entity; it can be done whenever and wherever (I must clarify here that although the beach and your desk do fall in to the whenever/wherever bracket, it is not necessary to meditate in exclusively the lotus position – standing, sitting, lying; it all works). What’s more, mediation helps to clarify and focus our thoughts, promote creativity and helps reduce stress. Being overly stressed is a common complaint these days and if we talk about optimum mental and physical health, stress is probably the biggest block in the road.
For one thing, stress (or moreover, chronic stress) is one of the biggest hinderences to effective fat loss. Excess cortisol levels in the body arise from chronic stress. In basic terms, excess chronic cortisol causes an inability to lose fat, particularly in the abdominal or belly region (short-term cortisol production on the other-hand is only human-nature, and is part and parcel of daily life; during and after a good workout, when we are in a rush to get the children ready for school, when tax-return time comes, etc.) My personal training client who has been the ‘Biggest Loser’ to date was at 39.3% when we started (and 15.9% afterwards) not through over-eating, but through high levels of stress in his daily life (through work and actually a lack of food). Of course through working very hard and eating correctly and more frequently played a big part. However through decreasing stress in his life and increasing his enjoyment and quality of life dramatically, his stress reduced dramatically, which made it a lot easier for him to lose the fat.
His number one site for fat loss (surprise surprise) was his stomach, of which he lost a staggering 66%. Cortisol and its role in fat loss (or lack of it) is perhaps a topic for another day, but needless-to-say, stress in the chronic form does nobody much good. It increases free-radicals in the system and makes us more fatigued, thus accelerating the aging process and it makes us generally not a pleasure to be around. To further complicate matters, usually the more stressed individuals tend to have the least free-time on their hands. This is where my 60-second Manly Meditation is a beauty.
You’ll be surprised at actually how relaxed 60 seconds of meditation can make you feel.
Here’s how it is done:
- When you take a momentary pause (at a red light, before going to bed, in a waiting room, whilst in front of this computer screen, etc.), fix your gaze on a steady point, object or light.
- Narrow and soften your gaze or, if you can, close your eyes (that’s why a red light is preferable to a green light!)
- Shift your attention to your breath.
- Let the inhale and the exhale lengthen with no effort or strain.
- Listen to your breath and the sound it makes. Feel it travel in through the nose and down in to your lungs.
- Experience fullness and pause.
- Imagine the breath radiating throughout the body, all the way to the cellular level. If noise or impatience creeps in, acknowledge it but gently place it to the side by shifting your attention back on to your breath. Only your breath.
- Fully expel your breath on your exhale and feel the breath all the way out.
- Repeat this for 8 breaths (or more if you have the time), allowing there to be no rush.
- You have just meditated
Now try to bring this in to your everyday life and feel the calm soothe in and the stress slide away.
3 other easy methods for decreasing stress include:
Writing a ‘grateful log’
Before bed every day write down in a diary or notebook at least 5 things you have been grateful for that day (even if it’s something as small as someone having held the door for you). Begin every sentence with either “I am grateful for…” or “Thank you for….” The whole process promotes calm, helping you look at the world in a positive light before sleeping. This is also a great method to prevent your mind racing and enrich your overall sleep quality, which in itself decreases stress in the body. Please note, it doesn’t necessarily need to be written in calligraphic style with a fountain pen!
Taking 5 minutes of ‘you time’ everyday
Eating (or rather grating and absorbing) two squares of dark chocolate
I know, it doesn’t get any better than this piece of advice, but make sure it’s two squares of 80-90% dark chocolate. Even better, grate it and let it melt under your tongue to better stimulate the neuro-lingual reflex, increasing your natural serotonin levels.
Personally, I make use of all of the above methods (yes even the last one, but only on a cheat day Campers!), however I have found the 60-second meditation method fantastic to re-focus my thoughts and reset my sense of inner-calm whenever and wherever I need it. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s effective. Need I say more?
Have a stress-free week everyone (oops, I just did say more).