Pardon our language. 😉 I’m so excited about today’s guest post! Crystal Fenton is a beauty editor turned yogi (she even teaches yoga to the FDNY, lucky girl!!!) When she offered to provide us with a 16 second trick to help calm the F*** down, I was immediately intrigued (it’s so perfect for this week’s challenge) but also a little bit skeptical, if we are being honest. But I tried it, and am happy to report back that IT WORKS. Magic. Seriously. It took me a little while to get the hang of breathing through different nostrils but it’s worth it. Give it a try at your desk today!
Hello & Happy 2018! I’m Crystal, an ex-beauty editor turned yoga teacher and freelance writer. I’m super excited to be here (this is actually the only blog I read on a regular basis) and to share how you, yes you, can relax in less than a minute.
Back in my magazine days, I was (like every other person on the planet) so busy that if I wanted to workout or do anything for myself, it had to serve a dual purpose, ie. manicure meeting with a publicist or a barre class at a beauty brand press event. Taking time to just sit still, relax and breathe was laughable: Who had time for that?!
Weeks turned into months, months turned into years of being overbooked, overworked, overachieving, underpaid (a woman cannot live on free fancy beauty products alone), spinning through a constant, competitive cycle of stress. I felt stuck, not to mention creatively blocked. Something had to change.
I’m a firm believer that everything, no matter how painful, happens for a reason that serves a greater purpose. A breakup with my live-in boyfriend of six years was my kick-in-the-pants reason. This loss left me feeling lost, sad and even more stressed out, so I made a point to get up at the crack of dawn (there were no more warm bodies of boyfriend and rescue dogs to snuggle with) to amp up my workout routine and yoga practice. Sure, I quickly shaped up physically but emotionally, I was still reeling. Then, one day, it suddenly dawned on me that the real change needed to come from within me. I had practiced yoga (on and off) for 15 years and it had recently become my healing place (you can read about that here) so I enrolled in teacher training. This is where I finally learned to tackle the oh-so-daunting challenge of seated stillness: Meditation.
Flash forward to the present where wellness and self-care are buzz words, meditation apps are everywhere and even meditation-only studios exist. Maybe meditation is even on your list of resolutions (personally, I hate that word and prefer intentions) but you haven’t yet found time to try it or are intimidated. If that’s you, then you’re in luck. Here’s how to ditch the drama and calm the F*** down.
Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana in Sanskrit) is believed to harmonize the two hemispheres of the brain; in turn, this balances your physical, mental and emotional well-being. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for creating calm), reduces anxiety and stress and improves mental clarity or focus. This 16 second version of the breathing technique will instantly quell stress, keep anxiety at bay or simply block outside annoyances. By shifting your focus away from the stressor and onto the physical act of breathing, you’ll be forcing the brain and body to connect with the present. P.S., this also is how I secretly slip meditation while teaching yoga to the FDNY (I know, lucky me!). If I dared to utter hippie phrases like “be comfortable with stillness” or “simply focus on the vibration of your breath” the fireman would laugh me right out of the studio. With this breathing exercise, they don’t even know they’re meditating!
You can do this wherever you are, standing or seated, although I prefer to practice it seated with closed eyes. Take your right hand, curl the ring and pinky fingers into the base of the palm, join the middle and index fingers together, pointing the thumb upright.
4 Seconds: Gently press the extended two fingers to close off the left nostril as you inhale for a count of 4 through the right nostril.
8 Seconds: Close your right nostril by pressing down with the thumb, simultaneously releasing closure of the left nostril as you exhale out of the left nostril for a count of 4.
12 Seconds: Inhale for a count of 4 through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed with the thumb.
16 Seconds: Press the two fingers against the left nostril as you release the thumb from the right nostril to exhale out for a count of 4.
Obviously, if you have more time, you can continue the alternate nostril breathing practice for as long as you’d like. Try it the next time you just can’t deal and see what happens: Consider it like a shot…of calm, rather than tequila!