With so many online resources and social media experts, there have never been more options when it comes to seeking out advice for challenging and changing times. Whilst it’s easy to find a lot of advice however, it can be difficult to gain clarity as to which advice we can trust. Thankfully, ancient and time-tested health systems like Ayurveda have a treasure trove of effective techniques we can use right now to stress less and cultivate calm.
Yes, this is probably something you’ve heard over and over again, but the way we breathe really does matter. Our breath reflects our state of mind – if your breath is short and shallow and seems to fill your upper chest and collarbones, it’s likely your mind is anxious, stressed and busy. If your breathing pattern is calm, slow and soft however, this indicates the mind is in a balanced and relaxed state. Just as the breath is influenced by our state of mind, we can influence our state of mind by the way we breathe. Try practicing pranayama (breathing techniques) to balance your mind. Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing), Brahmari Pranayama (humming-bee breath) or simple box-breathing can be very effective for quickly calming the brain and nervous system.
Focus On Your Feet:
If you’re feeling ‘ungrounded’, bringing focus to the feet can be a wonderful way to get out of your mind and into your body, where we usually experience a more relaxed state. As our connection to the ground, our feet are our link to the earth element, and we can enhance earth element qualities (like feeling steady, grounded and strong) by working with them. Foot massage is a key practice within Ayurveda for this very reason.
To practice, use warm oil such as sesame, almond or coconut, and slowly massage into the soles of your feet, remaining mindful and present. For an added dose of relaxation, try adding lavender and frankincense essential oils before bedtime, or ginger and cardamom essential oils to strengthen digestion.
Marma Point Power:
Just as Chinese Medicine works with Acupressure points, Ayurveda uses Marma points located all over the body. Each marma point interacts with a different physical, emotional and subtle quality. To help yourself relax and rebalance, try the Ajna marma point located at the central point between the eyebrows. Using your index finger, press and massage this point firmly yet gently for a few minutes – massaging in a clockwise direction to awaken and stimulate the mind, and anti-clockwise to relax and create calmness.
When it comes to delicious concoctions and somewhat ‘magic’ potions, Ayurveda has an abundance of them. Much of our physical illnesses and mental stresses are linked to inflammation. Whilst inflammation is actually a useful part of healing injuries, when it’s chronic and low-level, this is when we’re likely to experience continuous gut health issues, brain fog, body aches and hormonal imbalances. Use this simple recipe to help boost digestive power, calm inflammation, care for the immune system and relax the mind:
1 cup milk of your choice
½ tsp ground turmeric
Pinch of black pepper
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
Seeds of 1 cardamom pod (ground)
1 saffron strand
Add all ingredients to a pan and wait until it just starts to simmer.
Take off the heat, pour into your favourite mug, and add a little honey to sweeten if you like
Develop A Routine:
When life is disrupted and unpredictable, the energy of vata (linked to movement, irregularity, dryness, the air and ether elements, and change) is heightened. A balanced amount of Vata energy allows for creativity and adventure, but too much can make us feel highly anxious and scattered. Vata is calmed by routine – bringing regularity to irregularity. Especially if you’ve found yourself totally out of routine recently or you’ve had a big life change, start planning a daily routine and try to stick to it in order to calm, ground and focus your energy.
Mantras have been used for thousands of years to harmonise the mind and body. The word ‘mantra’ is a combination of the root words ‘man’ from the word ‘manas’ meaning ‘mind’, and ‘tra’ with several meanings such as ‘tool’, ‘travel’ and ‘transport’. Essentially, the essence of ‘mantra’ is that it is a tool for transporting the mind from one state to another. Mantras are said to hold specific vibrations of energy, and when the words are chanted, those vibrations entrain with the mind and body. Just focussing on a specific word or mantra can really help cultivate a different state of mind, because what we focus on, we tend to attract. To calm the brain and nervous system, try chanting the mantra ‘Om Shanti’ meaning ‘I am peace’; ‘YAM’, the heart chakra mantra; or affirmations like ‘This too shall pass’, or ‘All is well’.
Emma is a 500hr qualified Yoga teacher, musician, massage therapist, cook, and writer. Having grown up surrounded by Yoga and meditation, Emma began her practice at a young age and has continued to study and develop her understanding of Yoga on a daily basis. Training internationally with inspirational teachers, Emma’s passions now lie primarily in philosophy and Yoga off the mat. Emma currently teaches regularly in Sussex, co-leading teacher trainings, retreats, workshops and kirtans, and also manages the Brighton Yoga Festival.