15 Minute Stress Prevention
Seriously? Stress prevention in fifteen minutes!
OK, here's the disclaimer. This is what I consider for myself as the "bare minimum" to help prevent stress in my life. So I use this kind of routine as my emergency maintenance routine. It comes in handy when I'm on the road or like this morning when I had to get up and drive my teenage son to the airport at 4.30am and don't have time for a more complete practice. The best time for this routine is immediately after I get out of bed in the morning.
What you will see below is three segment stress prevention routine. The basics are here and there are several other options for each segment listed in my book. This routine is based on these ideas. First and foremost is the idea that it is good to get our blood flowing and air moving in and out of our lungs. Secondly, as our spine is the main energy conduit of our bodies, we can get all systems working better if we move the spine in all possible directions. These kind of activities (getting blood and breath moving and stretching in all directions) have a positive physical benefit. And we can get double the stress prevention benefit if we perform them with the utmost level of awareness and self-attunement. If you read Vince's story you will see that just practicing yoga for the sake of doing yoga really misses the boat in terms of what is possible.
Detailed ways to master these aspects can be found in
Turn Stress Into Bliss.
Michael's 15 Minute Stress Prevention Routine
Minutes 0 to 5: Jump around! Any way you like. The purpose is to get blood flowing and breath moving. You can do jumping jacks, you can make your arms into propellers, you can dance wildly, do scissor kicks in the air, or whatever. Being more of a yoga nut, I do squats with loud and deep breathing, I do a forward hang and shake my head while making the ugliest face I can muster, I open my mouth as wide as it will go and let out a roar like a lion and shake my body like a rag doll being severely mishandled by a rambunctious three year old.
The aim is to move as many different parts of your body as vigorously as you can while breathing deeply and having fun. By the end of 4 minutes you should be starting to feel a little tired from all the movement. When this happens it's time to stand still and take some slow deep full breaths in, and let them out with a "Hahhhhhhhhh" sound. (Falling out breath which is described in more detail in my book.) The conscious awareness part of this exercise is to observe yourself as you go. What do you notice? Sometimes I notice myself censoring my movements. Sometimes I notice that I am more or less vigorous than usual. Sometimes I notice myself trying to answer the question "why?" about whatever I'm noticing. What I like to do is let go of any judgments of myself regardless of what I notice myself thinking. I just say to myself "So what!" and come back to the exercise.
Minutes 6 to 10: Moving the spine in all directions. Back bend, forward bend, side bends, and twists in both directions. Do one or two of each and hold for two or three deep breaths at the edge with a pause for two or three deep breaths between each. Most any yoga book or my book "Turn Stress into Bliss" will give you detailed directions for these if you need them. Beginners tend to hold the positions for less time and do two repetitions. I prefer to do just one of each posture and hold for a little longer making sure to breathe fully and deeply in the holding position and when entering and leaving the posture. Again, practice with awareness. Observe yourself and use your observations to try non-judgment and detachment. (Both great stress prevention tools that you can take with you into your daily life)
Minutes 11 to 15: Meditate. Sit comfortably, breathe gently and become the witness. As I don't find meditation all that easy I use a simple mantra. It is "I watch myself breathe in, I watch myself breathe out" and repeat that over and over. If you are worried about time, set a timer. I don't worry about it. If I goa minute or two more or less so what. And I can judge five minutes pretty easily once I do it a few times.
Again, be the witness to your whole state of being as you sit and meditate At the end of your meditation there is one last thing to do. Set your intention for the day. "Today, I see myself going about my day………..(describe)". Make it positive rather than negative. For example: "I see myself going about my day with calmness and serenity" rather than "I see myself not getting into any fights today." Also don't forget to give yourself your absolute permission to not be perfect. Make room for not being 100% with whatever you might want to create in your day. Remember there is always tomorrow.
There you have it. Be inspired and do good things for yourself every day. And if you like what you read on this site, please do me and your friends a favor by sending them here or sharing this page on Facebook, and maybe helping others with a little stress prevention too.