You’ve just gotten home from a long day at work and all you want to do is kick your feet up and relax, but the dog is whining to be walked, the kids are hungry, there’s wet laundry in the washer and your partner forgot to pick up tonight’s dinner fixings at the store. This or your own (fill in the blank) version of a crazy, hectic day can leave you feeling like the world is spinning waaay too fast. All you want to do is go hide your head somewhere, but you can’t.
Thankfully, there is a 5 minute (5 minutes only!) exercise you can do that can help you relax and feel more human again.
The simple breathing technique I’m going to share with you is one that you can do at your desk, in your (parked) car, or even in the restroom if you have to disappear for a few minutes so your coworkers don’t give you funny looks.
I got this from “Relax Into Your Being”, by B.K. Frantzis. It is a wonderful book about Taoist meditation and qi gong practices. I find this exercise very relaxing and I like how calm I feel after doing it. I’ve adapted it slightly.
1. Sit comfortably with your feet placed on the ground in front of you. Relax your shoulders; notice your buttocks in the chair and your feet on the ground. Keeping your mouth closed, place your tongue at the roof of your mouth and relax your face.
2. Bring your attention to your breath as it travels in and out of your nostrils. Really notice the sensations of your breath moving in and out of your nostrils, even down to the movement of your nose hairs. Take your time doing this and don’t worry if you get it “right” or not; just notice what you notice.
3. Once you have experienced those sensations, slowly notice your breath as it continues to enter into your body. Notice the sensations as it moves from your nostrils and into your throat. Follow the flow of your breath as it moves into your chest and into your lungs. Feel the line of your breath as it moves into your belly and down to your belly button and finally down to your lower dan tien*, which is the area roughly half way between your belly button and your genitals. Do not speed through this. Give yourself time to really feel the sensation of your breath in each of these areas before you move to the next area. The main goal isn’t to reach the lower dan tien, but instead to feel the sensation of your breath in each of these areas as it moves on down. If you don’t reach your lower dan tien on the first try or even the tenth try, that is fine. Give yourself time to feel the sensations and relax into the exercise. Don’t push yourself. Eventually you will reach your lower dan tien. And again, don’t worry if you do it “right” or not, just follow the instructions as best you can and notice what you notice and you’ll do great.
4. Continue with this exercise for 5 or 10 minutes, really feeling the sensations of your breath as it travels through each of these areas. If you want, see if you can take longer breaths while doing the exercise, but again, don’t push yourself. This exercise is about relaxing and feeling your breath. Even if you just do the exercise for two minutes, that is good. Again, the exercise is about relaxing and feeling your breath.
5. When you are ready to stop, sit for a moment and breath normally. Notice your feet on the ground and your buttocks in the chair. Bring your awareness back to the room in which you are sitting. When you are ready, return to your day.
*The lower dan tien is an area about 4 finger breadths below the belly button, in the center of the body. It is considered, in Chinese philosophy, to be the seat or focal point of one’s internal energy or qi, and is utilized frequently during meditation and qi gong practices.