Six Powerful Ways to Stay Centered

Adapted from Marianne Elliott’s “Powerful Ways to Find Your Center”

Marianne Elliott, author, human rights advocate, and yoga instructor, posted some tips in the Huffington Post “GPS” column for keeping balance in the midst of our fast-paced, plugged-in, stressful lives. At Yoga U, we’ve added a few more ideas for maintaining that inner balance—practices we’ve found very centering:

  1. Breathe. This is number one on Elliott’s list, and we agree that it should take priority. When we are under stress, the breath gets shallow and fast, creating more stress for the body. Elliott recommends sitting comfortably and doing a yoga breathing practice: with a long spine and open, soft belly, and chest. Close your eyes gently and rest your hands on your knees. Let your attention be on your breath, easily counting the length of your inhales and exhales. Without any strain, gently balance the inhale and exhale so that they are of the same duration. Breathing quietly and softly and balancing the breath will balance your nervous system, wrote Elliot. It will deepen your breath and center your attention.

  2. Go Outside and Get Some Exercise. Elliott wrote that when she gets stressed, she notices that her mind disconnects from her body, her breath gets shallow, her body tighter, and her head gets busier.She recommends that when the head starts spinning, the best thing to do is to simply walk out the front door. Even when the weather is wild, she writes, the views are wonderful. Granted, Elliot lives in New Zealand, while I live in the Midwest. And even though some preparation is needed to go outside in a Midwest winter, I find even a short blast of frigid air or quick jog around the block clears the mental cobwebs and oxygenates the whole system.

  3. Call a Friend. Elliott recommends getting an outside perspective when you feel overwhelmed. She wrote that it helps to have a few friends that can be trusted to listen to her worries or complaints and respond with gentleness and love—whether it be reassurance that she’s doing the best she can or whether it’s a loving nudge away from unrealistic anxieties and toward a more balanced point of view.

  4. Strike a Tree Pose. In an article on FitSugar online, Jenny Sugar writes that a strong sense of balance encourages silence in the mind. As a single mother with four children and little income, I used to have plenty of off-balance moments, so I took up Bikram Yoga, which includes quite a few one-legged balanced asanas. I learned that when I’m out of balance, my eyes dart around. Just taking a moment to spread out my foot and connect to the earth, and then choose a focal point for my eyes, I found that as soon as I achieved the balance point physically, my breath deepened, the worries dropped away, and inner balance followed.

  5. Chant. Elliott, who is an attorney and human rights advocate that has served as a United Nations Peacekeeper in Afghanistan,writes that she used to think chanting was a bit wacky. But then she tried it and decided it is the perfect meditation technique for busy folk.

  6. Write Morning Pages. Grab any old notebook and a pen or pencil and write three pages of stream of consciousness. This technique is not just for writers—anyone can do it. Don’t take the pen off the page. Write whatever goes through your mind, even if it seems incoherent. Write for your eyes only and with the plan to throw it away afterwards (unless you want to keep it!). Julia Cameron made this technique famous in her book The Artist’s Way. As well as getting your creative juices flowing, morning pages help clear the mind and psyche, creating more peace and happiness.  

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