Try these two-minute exercises to calm your brain and sharpen your thinking
Chi Kung is an ancient Taoist practise, a way of being able to influence your own energy.
In times of stress, global or otherwise, being able to affect changes in your own energetic state is a really invaluable skill.
Overwhelm can take many forms. We experience emotions and sensations that are strong, and they leave us feeling ungrounded, uncentered, scattered or out of control. Coming back to, and paying attention to, yourself is vital. The following will help you to connect with and regulate yourself.
Let’s start with a really gentle and soothing practice.
Sit or stand comfortably. Before you begin, imagine something soft, slightly delicate and full of love in the palms of your hands (something like a baby chick, or a kitten). Allow your palms and fingers to soften and infuse with this imagined energy.
As if you were smoothing the ruffled fur of a cat, stroke and smooth your palms easily over your head, down your neck, and over the tops of your shoulders. Using your fingers, you can smooth across your forehead, temples, cheeks, over your nose, across your jaw and down your throat.
Using your right hand, smooth across your left upper chest and down your left arm, all the way to your hands. Then from under your left armpit down the sides of your ribs and your waist. Remember we’re not brushing fast, just smoothing gently, kindly. Repeat using your left hand on your right side.
Use the backs of your hands to smooth over your lower back and bum, and then your palms over the outside of your hips and the tops of your thighs.
Use both hands to smooth down the whole right leg (don’t apply pressure, still just smoothing imaginary fur) all the way to and including the top of your foot. Repeat on the left leg.
Then take both palms, one over the other to your belly, and circle the soft part of your belly (moving clockwise, up the right, across the top). Circle a few times and then let your palms stop just below your belly button. Stay here for two deep breaths, deeply inhale and sigh the exhalation. Be still and notice how you feel.
Simple breathing – ease with constant change
Stand as comfortably as you can. Feet hip-width and parallel, balanced in the middle of your feet. Slight bend in the knees and slight lift in the pelvic floor, strong in the lowest part of your belly which will let your tail tuck slightly underneath you. Spine rising up easily, and head balanced on top of your spine, gaze into the distance at eye level. Try to balance in your belly (a point about three fingers below your belly button) and not your head.
As you inhale, allow your arms to rise upwards (not straight out in front but with a curve- as if holding a really big beach ball) to about chest height. Your shoulders stay relaxed and away from your ears.
As you exhale, allow your arms to fall – back the way they came, gaze staying up and ahead.
Continue to move with your breath, make the breath deep but comfortable, so that there is no fighting in your body, the movement feeling frictionless.
In-breath – taking in Chi, taking in breath, taking in life
Out-breath – releasing Chi, letting your breath go, coming back to yourself.
As you move and breathe, see if you can really feel the sensation, the experience of expansion in your whole body as you inhale, and release in your whole body as you exhale.
Notice the moment of lightness, fullness at the top of the in-breath (a tiny moment). Notice the moment of emptiness, stillness and peace at the bottom of the outbreath (slightly longer moment).
Continue for between one and five minutes. You’re following the expansion – the expanse, the release, the stillness.
Be still and notice how you feel.
Find your centre
Sit or stand comfortably in balance. Place both palms over your Dan Tien (3 finger widths below your belly button). Imagine in the centre of your body under your palms is a flame, like the pilot light on a boiler. See if you can find it with your feeling senses, not your mind. Is it warm or cold, still or moving, what colour is it? Feel this place with all of your awareness.
Feel it slightly expand as you inhale (you don’t have to breathe into your belly, just breathe comfortably), and shrink slightly as you exhale. Expand and brighten, shrink and intensify with each breath. Feel it radiate outwards, through your belly, your waist, your back, up into your heart and down into your pelvis.
Here you can feel, but don’t need to react. You can be, without having to do anything. You can act from your centre.
Lizzie Slowe is a well-being expert, fully qualified equine therapist, Chi Kung Master and author of ‘The Living Art of Chi Kung’, available now priced £12.00.