Trade Your Stress for Your Breath
“Soft surrender is as important as hard work.” This mantra helps me function as a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic lifestyle counselor and writer with optimal vitality, ease, and creativity. It also makes a great guiding principle for achieving dreams, fitness goals and career success.
Knowing when to push and when to pause in a project or workout allows me to consistently and effectively meet deadlines and fitness goals without flat lining from stress. Inserting a daily pause, through heart centered breath meditation, assures me that both my mind and body function from a place of optimal ease and creativity.
After college, I worked in corporate banking. The brick and mortar of the company’s reward system was “hard work.” Those working consistent overtime or not using all their vacation or sick days were considered devoted go-getters destined for success. For a little while, I bought into that.
After about three years, I realized I was energetically and spiritually bankrupt. Ten-hour workdays, constant multi-tasking, and the pace of intense client demands created a tantrum of tension in my mind and body. Even after five-mile jogs or kickboxing workouts, I still felt stressed. I could Zen out on vacations, but back at the office I would often crash in a dead end zone of stress that threatened to drown me in the anxious undercurrents of my mind and unbalanced emotions.
Those long days and hardcore fitness routines soon took their toll. Clocking long runs removed the surface layer of stress and gave me the coveted runner’s high, and my body and cardiovascular system was as strong as an elite athlete. But my nervous system was a mess. At my core, I felt hypersensitive, over emotional and creatively stuck.
At a friend’s suggestion, I went to my first yoga class. The teacher taught meditation in the form of mindful breathing. His method was easy and practical, no special mantras or meditation cushion required. Just a few minutes anytime and anywhere. He suggested that at the moment stress occurs to pause, close your eyes and observe your breath. Breathe slow and steady from the heart space for 10 breaths or 10 minutes, whatever it takes to feel a state of ease.
I tried it and immediately felt better. It was easy. All I had to do when I began to feel stress was turn away from my desk and tune into my breath for a few minutes. With each breath, I watched my stressful mind soften and transform into a state of serenity. This mindful breathing meditation became my slow and soft saving grace to the quick and hard pace of corporate banking.
I left the corporate world in 2000 and now have my dream job. By weaving Ayurveda, yoga, and writing, I offer lifestyle counseling to clients and lead events and gatherings that help people realize their optimal well-being, fitness, and creative potential. Stress still comes knocking at my door, but through mindful breath meditation I release it before it can settle in my mind and body. Meditation reminds me of the power of ‘soft surrender.’
Practicing daily meditation helps me let go of unrealistic expectations that either others or I put on myself. Stress naturally dissolves when I turn my attention from my mind and center my focus at my heart. After a few minutes of heart centered breath meditation, I feel my career and personal life flow with greater ease and blossom with new vitality and creativity.
A Constant Pace vs. The Occasional Pause
Modern society and the corporate world have it all wrong. A constant pace of working hard and multitasking is ultimately non-sustainable. It decreases levels of productivity and creativity, as well as lowers immunity and contributes to heart disease.
Taking a rest or break during the day is as important as jamming on a deadline. A pause clears stress from the mind; a pause realigns one with intuition. Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
From the intuitive space, external and internal obstacles vanish. Career or relationship decisions that looked confusing, appear clear. Fear dissipates and one is free to manifest the heart’s deepest desires.
Mindful breath meditation is a natural pacemaker that recalibrates the worried mind to the slow and steady rhythm of the heart. A mindful pause aligns one with the most important creative force in the world—the heart’s power of unlimited possibility.
Scientifically speaking, during heart centered breath meditation the brain and heart release the stress reducing hormones of serotonin, melatonin and oxytocin. This allows one to manage stress from a place of clarity, versus disparity.
According to Ayurveda, the heart is the source of divine intelligence and creative inspiration. During periods of stress, the mind tends to go to battle armed with fears and defenses. However, the heart’s inclination is to surrender to intuition and therefore always navigates from a place of ease and potential.
Two easy ways to pause in your daily routine:
1. Serenity Breath Meditation. When feeling stressed, pause what you are doing. Close eyes and place hands in prayer at mid-sternum. This is a heart marma (acupressure) point. Take 10 slow, deep, and rhythmic breaths. Inhale serenity; exhale stress.
2. Nurture in Nature. When stress makes you feel ungrounded, root into the breath. A tree’s root system keeps it stable, as well as nourished. Stand steady in tree pose. Visualize your natural talents, friends, and family supporting you. Slowly breathe 10 times. Inhale serenity; exhale stress.
Curious to go on a personal meditation adventure? Click here to print a meditation card that has five easy and effective tips to nourish the heart and help start a daily meditation practice. Stick it to your computer at work, or tuck it into your purse or gym bag, and enjoy the practice of soft surrender.
Kellen Brugman, is the founder of “Ayurveda, Yoga, & You.” She shares the beauty and benefits of Ayurveda, yoga, and writing so people can experience greater ease, vitality, peace, and creativity in their lives. Based in Santa Barbara, Kellen is an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor, yoga teacher, and writer, and received her certifications from the Ayurvedic Institute and White Lotus Foundation. Her motto: “Daily self-care is the most important element of healthcare. Weaving together Ayurveda, yoga, and writing create an amazing roadmap that provides a lifetime of health, vitality, and optimal creative potential.” Kellen also writes for lululemon, Conscious Lifestyle Magazine, Maharishi Ayurveda, Maria Shriver, as well as her own blog. www.kellenbrugman.com