Zen Tips from Simon Ballard

Here at UDHQ we like to unwind with some office yoga once a week in our studio.  Today, our instructor Simon Ballard is sharing some zen tips to relax from everyday stresses.  Check out his tips below and read more about Simon and his practice here.

Q:  What are some breathing techniques to get through the frustration of traffic?                                                                                                             

A: The most obvious and accessible type of breathing would be to simply focus on deepening and balancing the breath, feeling the breath move from the abdomen to the upper chest with the inhalations and from the upper chest to the abdomen with the exhalations. You can softly constrict the muscles at the back of the throat and tongue to regulate the flow of air as it enters and leaves the nostrils.  This also creates a gentle vibration in the body that creates a soothing sound to calm an agitated mind.

Q:  What is a good stretch to do in the morning?                                          

A:  Standing with the big toes together and the heels slightly apart, bring the palms together and the center of the chest, lightly pressing the base of the thumbs into the sternum energetically connects the heart to the mind making our internal dialogue a little more authentic. I would even suggest closing the eyes here and taking 5 deep, balanced breaths. After those breaths, or when you feel ready, with an inhalation send both arms wide and over head, bring the palms together and with an exhalation fold forward over the thighs, take a soft bend in the knees as you fold to support the back. At the end of the exhalation drop the fingers to the floor, or take the palms to the shins and then inhale to a half way position with a flat back. If it’s comfortable take a few breaths there before exhaling and folding back over the thighs. Pressing firmly through the soles of the feet and keeping the soft bend in the knees, follow an inhalation back up to standing guiding the arms wide and over head. Finish by bringing the palms back together and exhaling back down to the center of the chest. This group of movements can be done as little, or as many times as desired to bring yourself into your day.

Q: What are some good stretches for someone who sits at a desk for 8+ hours a day?

A:  The spine unfortunately succumbs to a lot of physical and emotional stress when we sit for prolonged amounts of time. If for every hour you sit you spend 5-10 minutes in movement, the spine can correct itself and the stress factors reduced. An example of this movement could be simply walking around the work space, or the half sun salutations described above. Posture is key to a healthy stress free body, so maybe placing a yoga block or cushion between the base of the spine and the back of the chair could encourage a more sustaining posture. 

Q:  What are some breathing techniques for when you’re nervous?

A:  The nervous system is directly affected by the breath, and the breath by the nervous system. When feeling nervous it is a helpful practice to find a quiet space, to close the eyes, and to focus on the breaths rhythm. After a minute or so the breath should become a little more calm, from here you can place the thumb of the right hand over the right nostril with the rest of the fingers pointing up, you can now breath gently in and out through the left nostril. This balances the nervous system and brings a more grounded and cooling influence into the body and mind.

Q:  What are some zen tips for good sleep?  

A: Environment is crucial. Create a sacred space where you can relax and process your day. This may simply be a corner of the bedroom where you can create an altar - maybe a picture of something that relaxes or inspires you, some incense or candles to soften the influence of artificial light. Sitting on a comfortably, close the eyes and focus on balanced rhythmic breathing for maybe 10 minutes before you go to bed. Be sure to not over exert before bed. Take time for you. A simple and effective pose to prepare the body for sleep is Viparita Karani, or legs up the wall pose.

To get into this pose sit with the right hip pressed to a wall, the legs stretched out. Taking your time and trying to move with the breath, lay down next to the wall, shift the body round so the sit bones are now to the wall, and straighten the legs up the wall, the arms can drop by the sides of the body, or the palms maybe rested on the abdomen or chest to feel the breath. If it’s a little to intense with the legs straight lightly bend the knees and place the soles of the feet on the wall. This can be held for as long as desired.