A Seriously Simple Stress Slayer
Just the idea of “destressing” can stress some people out. Like, “How do I do it? I can’t add another thing to my ‘to do’ list. I don’t have time to sit lotus position with my legs crossed.”
What many people don’t know – and what took me a while to latch on to – is that you don’t have to be a “meditator” to flip the nervous system from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic (rest and digest – some call it feed and breed) response.
Below is one of the single most effective things you can do to tame your monkey mind, find your center, tame those hypervigilant adrenals, and feel like a calm has washed over you.
It’s so easy, you can do it behind the wheel of a car.
It’s also wonderful to do this prior to a meal (remember, ‘rest and digest’) and can help significantly with digestion and nutrient assimilation.
Taken directly from Dr. Andrew Weil:
This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.
Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation.
The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is what is key. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. This is not about holding your breath as long as possible, but about finding a pace that is comfortable for you. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and slowly and deeply.
This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice; more is not better. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.
Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens, before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.