If you’re like almost everyone I know, your first impulse when you get home from a long day at work or a busy day running errands is to grab a bag of chips or some kind of snack, sprawl out on the couch and watch TV for hours before going to bed. You may have had a conflict with a co-worker or felt overwhelmed by the long lines at the supermarket, and with so much drudgery and frustration, the last thing you want to do is something productive—like reading to your kids, paying your bills or finishing certain chores.
This makes perfect sense. When we feel overwhelmed by the dense energy that fills our hectic lives, we think we need to neutralize the bad heaviness with things that supposedly make us feel good: eating sweet and oily foods, watching aimless television programs and finding the most horizontal position we can for our bodies to experience weightlessness. While these may seem satisfying at the moment, they add heaviness to our material bodies, which burdens us and keeps us further entrenched in our own suffering.
This exercise calls upon you to create a short sitting practice for yourself when you feel you’re ready to submit to your end-of-day impulses or even sleepiness at your practice. It is designed to foster alertness, which will counter the inevitable lethargy of a taxing day. When you’re done with work or errands or have finished your dinner, find somewhere quiet in your home or office to sit in a basic cross-legged position. This can be in the middle of the floor, against a wall or even on a chair with your feet on the ground if you find significant discomfort in sitting with crossed legs.
Close your eyes, and take long and slow breaths. Breathe in through your nose for a count of three, and then breathe out through your nose for a count of six. Repeat this 30 times or however many times you feel comfortable with. The breathing will deliver more oxygen to your entire body, which will stimulate cellular activity in the brain and calm the nerves. Consider the following points:
• As this exercise is designed to foster alertness, it is important to have an erect spine. If sitting cross-legged makes your shoulders slump forward and your lower back sink, sit on a couple of folded blankets or a yoga block to raise your pelvis. This will help to properly align your spine.
• If breathing in and out through your nose is difficult for you, try breathing in through your nose and then out through your mouth.
Once you’ve completed the breathing, sit for a moment and observe how you feel about vegging out as opposed to doing something you’ve been putting off. Do you want to spend the whole evening watching TV (the TV eventually watches you), or do you want to watch only one of four shows? Do you want to eat those chips (which eventually become you), or are you willing to try a piece of fruit, sip some herbal tea or not consume anything at all? A great first step in becoming more aware of your place in this material world is to challenge yourself to crave a lighter energy, and this awareness can begin with the heaviest hours of your day.
Yogi Cameron Is an Ayurveda and yoga therapist offering natural medicines and treatments to help people live a healthier and happier life. For more information, visit www.yogicameron.com. Reprinted with Permission of Harper One from the new book, The Guru in You: A Personalized Program for Rejuvenating Your Body and Soul. Copyright 2011 by Cameron Alborzian. All rights reserved.