With all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, most of us are left feeling stressed out beyond our limits. In ayurveda, stress is caused by too much movement of energy within the mind, which results in feeling tired, irritable, and excessively hungry for sugar.
The good news is that the mind can be tamed through some simple tools – breathing exercises and a hand posture. When the lines in the store or the traffic on the road is about to burn through your last ounce of sanity, try combining the following two techniques for 10 minutes to bring you back to your best self.
The breath has a direct connection to the mind and is one of the fastest ways to settle the mind down during moments of excess stress. A simple yogic breathing technique, Pranayama, takes advantage of this connection between the breath and the mind. The breath takes your mind’s attention away from the never-ending “to-do” list and brings it back into the present moment. Slow, deep breathing shifts the body’s chemistry from a fight-or-flight response to a rest-and-relax state. It also helps to increase the oxygen content of your blood, bringing more nutrients to every organ in your body. The best part is you can do this breathing exercise anywhere and at any time – even while you are waiting in that mile-long line to the check-out counter.
The hand is also an important instrument for controlling stress. Beyond using it to grab gifts off of the shelves, the hands also function as conduits for the nervous system. At the end of each finger, there are energy channels that run throughout the body. In hand reflexology, the padding on the tip of the thumb corresponds to the brain. Stimulation of this point on the hand supports brain function. The middle portion of the back of the index finger represents the neck, which is a place where most of us hold our stress. Stimulating these two points simultaneously brings balance to the mind and helps reduce stress.
In ayurveda, this is done in the hand position called Vayu Mudra. This is a common hand position held during meditation because of its ability to settle the mind.
Begin by taking a comfortable seated position; it can be in a chair, in bed, or even in a parked car. Sit with your shoulders up and back, and chin tucked back so that your neck is in a neutral posture. Your spine should be straight for the optimum results. Once you are seated and comfortable, the next step is getting your fingers in the right position.
Bend your index finger downward until it touches the palm of your hand just below your thumb. Next place the thumb directly on top of the back of the index finger in between the first and second knuckle. This forms a lock, or mudra, that shifts the energy in your body. Now, you can add the breath work as you hold this posture. Breathe in deeply for 2 seconds and then hold your breath for 8 seconds. Then, slowly exhale over 6 seconds. Repeat this breathing pattern for 10 minutes while holding both hands in the Vayu Mudra position. Your stress level will dramatically decrease.
The holidays are challenging for everyone. Even if you take a medication to help cope with the stress, it will take more than 10 minutes to kick in. So, before running to the doctor’s office for a pill, try 10 minutes of breathing while holding this hand posture. If you incorporate this technique into your daily routine year-round, next year, the holidays – and any trying situation – will feel a lot less stressful all together.