Relaxation is a vital part of everyday life. Helping you bring an element of calm to your day after a hectic eight or nine hours at work can be the difference between a good day and a bad one. Similarly, you’ll begin to become more in-tune with what’s around you and be more present and, handily, it can all be done in under 15 minutes at home. “Meditation doesn’t have to be complex, really long or have to look a particular way to be effective,” explains Third Space Master Trainer Clare Walters. “As little as 10 minutes is all you need to have a daily mindful moment to drop in and slow down. There are many different styles of meditation and some will suit you better than others so try one style out for a little bit, if it doesn’t work for you then try another.
“When we meditate, we’re looking to slow down both the body and the mind, but this takes practice so don’t be put off if you find it hard to begin with. Approach meditation in the same way you would approach a new style of training, you wouldn’t expect to be able to deadlift 100kg the first time you touch a barbell so don’t expect to be totally focused for the whole duration of the first time you meditate – practice makes progress.”
To help you get started, Walters walks you through a 10-minute meditation flow that you can do at home. “The benefits of meditation might not be noticeable immediately after you finish your practice, they tend to show up in the course of your day,” says Walters. “For example when you find you’re not getting stressed when you see your email inbox filling up, or when you find you’re able to take a breath before responding to a confrontation, or when you just feel calmer and more relaxed in general.” With that in mind, take this for a spin next time you’re feeling stretched.
“One of the simplest ways to relax both body and the mind is to practice breathwork, to deepen and slow the breath. This allows you to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system – the relaxation response,” says Walters. “After 10 minutes of focused, deep breathing, you should feel more relaxed mentally and physically.”
A really simple technique you can practice at home is ‘box breathing’. “This is really good for regulating the breath and can help to calm the mind. It consists of finding four equal parts to the breath – inhale, hold, exhale and hold,” says Walters.
(Breath retention is beneficial in regulating the rhythm of our breath but is not recommended during pregnancy or if suffering from high blood pressure – if this applies to you, just focus on the inhale and exhale)
- Start by finding a comfortable seated position with a long spine so you’re not slouching but not holding any unnecessary tension.
- Close your eyes or fix your gaze on a point on the floor in front of you, take a deep inhale through the nose, and sigh it out through the mouth. Now close your mouth and let your breath flow easily in and out through the nose.
- Notice your natural breath – notice its rhythm, quality and depth.
- Take one hand and rest it on your belly – direct the breath towards this hand, so that the belly expands as you inhale and then softens towards the spine as you exhale. This is called a belly breath or diaphragmatic breath.
- Take a moment to allow this breath to settle into a natural rhythm, with the belly expanding as you inhale and softening as you exhale.
- Now start to count the length of your breath – breathe in for a slow count of 4 and breathe out for a slow count of 4.
- Once you’ve settled into this rhythm we’ll add the breath holds.
- Inhale for 4, hold the top of the inhale for 4, exhale for 4, and hold the end of the exhales for 4.
- Keep this going for up to 10 minutes.
- As you let the Box Breath go notice how you feel physically, notice the pace of your thoughts, and notice how you feel emotionally.
“If you find that your mind wanders a lot during meditation, mantra meditation might be for you as it gives the mind something really tangible to focus on. A mantra is simply a word or a phrase that you repeat over and over in the back of the mind,” says Walters. “You might be given a personal mantra by a meditation teacher or you might use a universal mantra. The word ‘mantra’ loosely translates from Sanskrit as mind vehicle, you can think of the mantra being a vehicle that drives us away from cognitive thought and into a state of deep meditation.” ]
- Start by finding a comfortable seated position with a long spine.
- Close your eyes or fix your gaze on a point on the floor and settle into the natural rhythm of your breath.
- Let go of any unnecessary physical tension you might be holding on to – soften your brow and release your jaw, relax your shoulders and your abdominal muscles.
- Allow the breath to be a purely nasal breath, think about breathing deep into the belly.
- Start to repeat the mantra “Let Go” in the back of your mind.
- You can find any rhythm or tempo that works for you or you can tie it to the breath – inhale think the word Let, exhale think the word Go – inhale Let, exhale Go.
- At some point, you’ll notice your mind has wandered and you’ve forgotten to think the mantra when this happens just gently direct your mind back to the mantra and start again.
- Stay with this for 10 minutes or so then let go of the mantra.
- Take a moment to just sit and notice anything that may have shifted or changed over the course of the meditation. Do you feel any different?
“Often, we find that mental stress manifests as physical tension in the body,” says Walters. “unfortunately when our muscles are tight and we feel physically tense, it can make us feel more stressed – a self-perpetuating cycle. In these instances, a body scan meditation can be really helpful in reminding us to let go of said tension which can make us feel more relaxed.”
- Start by lying down on your back – either with legs out long or with the knees bent, feet flat and the knees dropping in to touch.
- Close the eyes and take a deep inhale through the nose and sigh it out through the mouth. Now close the mouth and let the breath flow easily in and out through the nose.
- Notice all the parts of the body that are touching the floor – feel the weight of the skull, the shoulder blades and the pelvis drop down to the ground.
- If you don’t feel very relaxed at this point, tense every muscle you can, squeeze your hands into fists, scrunch up your toes and your face and hold for 5 seconds then let it all go. You can repeat this a few times if you need. Then bring yourself back to a relaxed stillness.
- Now we’ll take a scan of the body starting with the head and face. Notice any tension you’re holding here and consciously relax and release it. Can you release your jaw and soften your brow?
- In your own time, take your focus down to the neck and repeat the same process.
- Keep moving down the rest of the body until you’ve released as much tension as possible.
- Take a few moments to lie here in this relaxed stillness and tune into the rhythm of your breath.
- When you’re ready, start to bring movement into the fingers and toes and wake the body up, roll up to a seat and blink open the eyes.