“There is more to life than merely increasing its speed” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Like all things in nature, we have an inherent rhythm that moves within us. The most obvious example is the rhythm of our heartbeat. I love Ayurveda because its wisdom is rooted deep in the tradition of honoring natural cycles such as, seasons, time of life and time of day. Our hectic and over-scheduled days can pull us away from our individual rhythm leaving us feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, out of balance and disconnected. One of the keys in learning to honor our rhythm is to slow down. Unfortunately we live in a culture that rarely allows for rest and relaxation unless we are sick, on vacation or retired.
I just got back from a much needed vacation. It was the first time in a long while where I was truly able to let go of my schedule and to-do lists, dive into nature, connect with friends and family and reset and realign with my rhythm. When I returned home and proceeded to dive right back into life, lists and work I realized I desperately need to create daily mini-vacations in order to stay balanced and in tune with my rhythm.
Here are eight great ways to take a break and to practice the art of slowing down on a more regular basis.
Take 5 Deep Belly Breaths – The rhythm and depth of your breath directly affects the state of your mind and the health of your body. Pausing throughout your day and taking several deep belly breaths is a great way to take a break plus it reduces stress, calms the nervous system, improves digestion and increases focus. I operate on the 90/10 rule when I’m working. For every 90 minutes of working at my computer or on a project I take a ten minute break. I always start those breaks with 5 deep belly breaths and it’s magic!
Rest with Your Legs Up the Wall – Known as Viparita Karani in yoga, resting in this inverted pose is incredibly rejuvenating. Legs up is great if your stressed, fatigued, jet-legged or just back from a long run. When you relax with your legs up the wall, you are practicing the opposite of activity, which is receptivity. I always feel more productive and creative after I spend a few minute in this pose. Try it for ten minutes and let me know how you feel.
Unplug – When I was on vacation I was unplugged for several days. Yup. No electronics. I’ll admit at first this was a challenge. Don’t get me wrong technology is great but for all the conveniences they bring us they also can be addicting, and the constant need to respond aggravates Vata dosha. Take a break from all devices. Try going device-free from 7 pm – 7 am if for no other reason than to see if you can.
Eat a Meal in Silence – How often do you just sit in silence and savor a meal. Be honest. Do you eat with your phone within arm’s reach? I see it all the time when we go out to dinner—couples, friends, families all distracted by social media and the latest ping of their device. In his book Savor, Thich Nhat Hanh talks about the importance mindful eating. Serve your meal on your favorite dishes, sit at the table, slow down and savor each bite of your food. Bring your full awareness to the sight, smell, taste and texture of your food, something powerful happens when we are fully present with the experience.
Explore a Park – I am constantly amazed at all the great little green spaces and parks tucked away in Seattle. The other day between classes I grabbed lunch at Whole Foods and spontaneously stopped at a park I had never been to before. I ate under the shade of a big old cedar tree and was happy to find a new little treasure to explore.
Watch the Clouds – Lying on the Earth looking up at the clouds, watching the shapes unfold, creating stories and letting your imagination soar is a great way to take a break. I recently purchased a hammock and I try to spend a few minutes each day laying in it, floating with the clouds. I love it.
Let It Go – Nothing is more depleting then carrying around old stories, grudges and gripes. On average we have 60 – 80 thousand thoughts a day and 80% of those thoughts are the same thoughts you had yesterday. Astonishing. If you find yourself caught in negative and outdated thoughts imagine setting them down and walking away. Create a ritual of setting down old thoughts and challenge yourself to walk away and not pick them up again.
Give Thanks – Gratitude above all else. When we have too much going on it is easy to lose sight of our blessings. Moving through the world with a grateful heart brings peace, ease and abundance into our daily lives. Keep a gratitude journal and write in it daily. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to acknowledge the things they’re thankful for experience are more positive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.
What’s your favorite why to take a break?
Wishing you Vibrant Living,