Our minds and bodies benefit from taking breaks every so often. If you’ve read my blog on the Ultradian Healing Response, you’ll know that whether you’re wading through emails, caring for kids, diving into a passion project or designing your home yoga practice sequence, taking a break every 90 minutes helps us retain information, de-stress, and become more productive no matter what the task involves. Humans have evolved to interact with lots of different stimuli throughout the day (not just staring into a screen for hours….) so if you want to discover how to take breaks that really benefit you (and are easy to do), read on!
Picture the scene: You’ve been sitting at your desk typing, clicking and scrolling away all day, and when you finally finish, you feel a little foggy and tired, and perhaps even light-headed. Much of the tiredness or even the brain fog some of us may feel after a long period of time working, is due to a lack of proper breathing, thus decreasing oxygen levels, and creating a less-than-optimal state in the body and brain. To prevent brain fog or to remedy that post-work slump naturally, simply take a few moments to breathe. Set a timer for around 90 minutes, so you know you’ll be getting a break after a block of work time, then grab a
cushion or zabuton and sit comfortably with a lengthened spine. Books like The Power of Breath by Swami Saradananda and How To Breathe by Ashley Neese are full of simple and effective breathing techniques, including Nadi Shodhana or ‘alternate nostril breathing’. Whilst sitting comfortably, use your right thumb to close your right nostril, and inhale through the left. Pause and use your thumb and ring finger to gently press the nostrils closed completely, then open the right nostril and exhale. Next, close off the left side and just inhale through the right nostril, close, and exhale through the left. Repeat for a few minutes to re-set your energy and attention. If you want to ensure you’re breathing better through your nose all day (which has a huge amount of benefits) practice using a neti pot to reduce nasal and sinus congestion.
Move & Stretch
Maybe you take a morning walk or a midday run, or perhaps you do a little exercise session inbetween meetings head to the gym after work. In nature however, we’d be moving a lot more than simply walking from the office to the bathroom or cafeteria throughout the day. This isn’t to say we should be squeezing in burpees and handstands every hour, but instead finding a few yoga asanas and stretches that can help boost circulation and prevent muscular tightness. Set your time for 90 minutes again, and after that bout of work, roll out your ecoYoga jute mat and grab your bolster and belt. To open up tight desk-bound shoulders, lay back on your bolster with your arms open to the sides, gently stretching the chest and fronts of the shoulders. Use your bolster to support your leg in a gentle reclined twist, then use your belt to stretch your hamstrings before diving back into work – mode. To add an extra layer of goodness to your stretch session, use the Yogamatters cork massage ball set to soothe sore muscles and tight knots.
If there’s one remedy that seems to soothe the soul most, it’s getting out into nature. Sunlight, natural sounds, and the earth beneath your feet can act as a tonic to a stressful day, and books like The Nature Remedy by Faith Douglas, and Plantfulness by Dr Jonathan Kaplan include studies showing increased time spent around or in nature simultaneously increases our sense of wellbeing in a profound way. A quick walk to refresh your mind can be a relaxing and rejuvenating way to take your break, but if that isn’t possible, stepping out into the garden or balcony, or even taking a few moments to look out of the window and daydream (another practice shown to boost wellbeing and creativity) can all have positive effects.
Relaxation doesn’t have to be relegated to the end of the day, or only when you really need it. If we can bring a relaxation practice into a daily routine, we’re less likely to suffer from chronic stress and the knock-on effects of inflammation, impaired digestion and high blood pressure. When it’s time to take a break from work, or you have a moment of peace when your children are napping or playing, lie down on a soft cotton blanket, support your knees with a small rectangular buckwheat bolster, and place an eye pillow over your eyes. Use the Total Yoga Nidra CD by NIrupta Tuli and Uma Dinsmore-Tuli to bring yourself into a state of deep, healing relaxation, which studies show can be as effective as deep sleep. Another benefit of taking this type of break amidst a busy day, is that it can actually increase our ability to learn and retain information!
Making a cup of tea could be perhaps one of the most traditional and time-tested ways to take a break, but its fast becoming a forgotten art. When you’re ready to take a break, choose a tea like Pukka’s Feel New organic tea, or OMGTea matcha green tea, with the accompanying set, and make your break into a mindfulness practice. Instead of scrolling through your phone whilst the kettle boils, practice mindfully moving your awareness throughout your body – noticing where you’re holding tension and relaxing from your head to your toes. Be aware of how the mug you’re about to drink from feels, and when you’re pouring the water, listen to the sounds. If you’re making matcha tea, pay attention as you stir the tea gently, which is part of a traditional matcha tea ceremony regularly conducted by Buddhist monks. Notice the scents of the tea, and how the warm liquid feels as you drink it. Small mindful breaks like this can have a big impact on how we feel for the rest of the day, reducing stress levels, boosting focus, and helping us become more present.