As I’ve shared on both the page and the stage, I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life. Yoga has been a powerful tool to combat it. As a yoga student, the practice provided a sanctuary for me to become more present, grounded, and calm. As a yoga teacher, I seek to provide this experience and these tools to others. I’m especially interested in the intersection of yoga and life because even if you’re practicing yoga every single day, 365 days a year (and let’s keep it real, who the heck is?), what about the other 23 hours of the day? What about when you roll up your mat and step back into your real life, only to be clobbered over the head with work/life stress?

That question is why I became interested in exploring how to take tools that provide yoga-induced calm off the mat and into the rest of your life: So that when you’re back at your desk/in the car/having a difficult conversation, you can tap back into that yoga zen. Seven years ago, I started developing workshops to share the tools that worked for me, and I’ve been teaching them nationally ever since. Here are some of my favorite, proven hacks, as well as techniques from the world-renowned Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, the teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School. I hope they help you take your zen with you too.

1: Extended-Exhale Breathing. To do: Breathe in for a slow, calming count of three, and out for a slower, calming count of four or five. Repeat for 3-5 minutes (or as long as you like) and students tell me they notice an immediate sense of relaxation. I turned to Laura Malloy, LICSW, director of yoga programs, and director of Successful Aging at the Benson-Henry Institute to understand why and how this works. Malloy explains, “This replicates how we breathe when we’re sleeping. It initiates the parasympathetic nervous system’s relaxation response, which is the opposite of the stress response.”

The Benson-Henry Institute’s founder, Dr. Herbert Benson, is a pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine and credited with discovering the relaxation response. Together with his colleague Robert Keith Wallace, Dr. Benson studied the effect of meditation on the body, and found that it reduced metabolism, rate of breathing, heart rate, and brain activity, which Dr. Benson labeled “the relaxation response,” a term which has become a staple in the field of mind-body medicine (as well as within the worlds of wellness, yoga, and meditation). So what are some of Malloy’s favorite tools to teach at the Institute?

2: Ten-Count Exhale How To: Breathe in (any count), and as you exhale (any count) say  silently to yourself, “Ten.” Breathe in (any count), and as you exhale (any count) say, “Nine.” Repeat until you reach one. Then do additional rounds as needed. Malloy, a licensed therapist, who also holds her 500-hour yoga certification from the internationally respected Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, says she often starts with this technique for patients. “This works well because the mind loves to have a focus, so if we give the brain something to focus on, it gets us off the ‘everyday train of thought,’ as Dr. Benson says.”

Malloy says that anxiety is defined as the mind worrying about the future—something we can all relate to, amiright? Who hasn’t caught themselves on a runaway mind train where, “I’m nervous about giving that presentation/job interview/other thing you have going on in your life…”  spirals into doomsday-type worries, “…my mind will go blank/I’ll say something stupid/I won’t get the job/I’m a huge failure/Now I’m sweating through my clothes and can barely breathe.”

3: Take a Pause How To: Breath in, pause. Breathe out, pause. Breath in, pause. Breathe out, pause. Keep repeating. This gives your mind something to focus on—your breath—and creates a place to break the anxiety cycle and take a pause.

Malloy explains each of these breathing techniques are designed to interrupt that anxiety escalation and bring you back to the present moment. But what about people who don’t want to do breathwork?

4:   Physical Mindfulness How to: Malloy says the key to this is to focus on the sensations in your body. “Feel your feet on floor, feel your back resting on the chair.” And for those who don’t want to focus on their body, “Notice the view out the window. Have a cup of tea and notice the temperature, the taste, the color, the feel of the mug in your hand.” Malloy explains the key is tuning in to the sensations in your body or what’s going on in the immediate world around you.

5: Mantra Mindfulness How To: Again, because the mind loves to have something to focus on, giving it something positive to hone in on can help steer it away from that runaway anxiety train, and get you back on track to Zen Town. Malloy suggests, “I am…at peace,” which you can sync to breathing in, breathing out. And what about those of us who have yet to achieve Yoda-like Jedi-level enlightenment and may accidentally have a thought or worry interupt? Don’t beat yourself up. As Malloy says, “When the thoughts creep in, put them to the side and go back to your mantra: I am…at peace.”

Malloy says they call these hacks “mini-relaxations,” which sounds like something I’d like to order from my favorite spa’s menu while wearing a big fluffy robe, but can conveniently be done anywhere including while commuting, wearing anything including a suit.

So what does Malloy herself, therapist, co-director at the world-leading institute on mind-body medicine, master yogi practicing since 1994 and teaching since 2001 do to relax? You can bet your mandala I asked. “My favorite is having a mindful moment: bringing my head to where my feet are, breathing belly breaths, and allowing myself to be here now. If my mind starts to run too far into the future, with this awareness, I can bring it back to the present.”

Malloy advises that these mini-relaxations should ideally be practiced as a booster shot to your larger relaxation practice, which the Benson-Henry Institute recommends doing 20 minutes a day—whether it’s yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, or the mindfulness practice of your choice. “It takes practice to get good at them, just like you have to practice an instrument, or learn to brush your teeth. It’s the same thing with doing a relaxation every day, you have to tap into that and train your body how to relax. We teach it as a practice, instead of a band-aid approach. We hope people will do a relaxation practice 20 minutes a day, and then view the minis as booster shots.”

A prescription to relax 20 minutes a day with a booster shot of extra zen? Now that’s mind-body medicine we can look forward to taking!

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