Are you constantly scrolling through a mental to-do list? Are your anxiety levels crushing your productivity? Mind and Body Master Trainer Clare Walters explains why it’s time to Exhale.
For those of us who lead busy lives, constantly running from one meeting to another and juggling innumerable responsibilities, it can be hard to simply sit for a moment and take a breath.
Our body responds to moments of stress with the fight or flight response. In pre-history this stress involved running away from a predator, in our current lifestyle our fight or flight response has a new stimulus – the toothless yet no less heart-palpitating work deadline or heated encounter with a colleague.
The fight or flight response elevates the release of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which cause a combination of physiological changes in the body in anticipation of running or fighting. (Note: fighting your colleague is very much frowned upon.)
These physiological responses include an increased heart rate, slowed digestion, increased blood pressure and muscle tension. And when we lead a high stress lifestyle, our body’s stress response is activated so frequently that it doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in prolonged higher levels of cortisol.
This can cause health issues such as high blood pressure, reduced immunity, increased abdominal fat and lower cognitive function. The effects of mental stress are very physical.
The New Fix
So how do we counteract this? Third Space’s new class Exhale is a fusion of breath work (manipulating the rhythm of the breath to calm the body), Hatha flow yoga and guided meditation. Grounded in science, Exhale promises to help you leave feeling calmer and more focused.
This all works by stimulating the relaxation response – the parasympathetic nervous system. One of the simplest ways to do so is to manipulate our breathing. Elevated cortisol, caused by stress, increases the speed of your breathing, this means that the breath also becomes shallow. When we breathe deeply, filling the lungs and expanding the tummy, we start to employ diaphragmatic breathing. This then stimulates the vagus nerve to message your brain and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
When the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant the heart rate slows, blood pressure drops as the blood vessels relax and dilate and the body is put into a relaxed state. It’s a simple trick that can cure myriad ills, and Exhale is now here to help you do it properly.
In the first 10 minutes of Exhale you are guided into diaphragmatic breathing then, keeping this slow, deep breath you then use it to help unlock the muscles through Hatha flow yoga. With a focus on the hips, the flow prepares the body to be able to sit comfortably for meditation. Different meditation techniques will be introduced over the weeks, allowing you to find the technique that works best for you and have the skills to use them at home.
And so, when the workload piles up and your heart rate spikes, book yourself into a class, or deploy the processes you’ve learned at home. Either way, you’ll be able to press reset and tackle any to-do list stress-free.
Can’t Wait For The Class – Try It At Home
Meditation isn’t about emptying your mind and not thinking – it’s about not letting your thoughts control your mind. Try sitting still for 5 minutes and focus on your breath – breathe in for a count of 4 and breathe out for a count of 4. Anytime you get distracted or lose count, bring your focus back to the breath and start again.
If meditating at home, try to choose a convenient and consistent time each day to do your meditation. Always try to meditate in the same spot and if possible with a consistent smell (incense work well here). Maybe choose a quiet place in your house and set up a little meditation station. Ensure you are sitting comfortably and try to keep a relatively empty stomach.