Mindfulness coach, yoga teacher and Lululemon ambassador Maude Hirst shares her tips for better mental health
As a mindfulness coach, can you share some techniques that can alleviate stress as it gets colder and darker?
During the winter months and particularly this year with lockdown, it is more important than ever to look after mental health. Mindfulness practices like breathing techniques and meditation can be a great way to support us by shifting our focus away from the craziness of the external world and looking inward. It is far easier than people might think.
When people feel stressed or negative, without realising the breathing gets short and shallow. The key to shifting these feelings is by shifting the breathing.
Here are two easy and simple techniques that have been proven to bring people out of stress and back into balance.
- Set an alarm for 10 minutes
- Find a comfortable seat and close your eyes
- Simply breathe in through the nose for six seconds and out through the nose for six seconds
Lengthening and deepening the breath will balance out the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system, leaving you almost instantly feeling calmer. Do this every morning and it can be a game changer for the day.
- Find a comfortable seated position
- Set an alarm for 10 minutes
- Close the eyes and begin to observe your breathing. Which parts of the body are rising and falling with each breath?
- Begin to focus on sending the breath into the belly, expanding on the inhale, and softening on the exhale
- Whenever you mind wanders (which inevitably it will) just gently bring the focus back into the breath
Observe how you feel at the end of the 10 minutes.
It can be more difficult to motivate yourself to go on a run in the winter and people’s moods can be low. Do you have a secret ingredient to help overcome this?
Motivation is not something that you can force, it must be cultivated from within. So my secret ingredient to find motivation comes through meditation both seated and moving.
Meditation is not sitting with a blank mind (as sometimes it is mistaken to be) it is a practice in simply shifting the awareness and focus within ourselves.
Often when feeling low and unmotivated people get stuck in a negative thought pattern and a lack of movement in the body. Emotions are like energy in motion, so moving your body can affect your emotions.
- Put on a favourite song
- Close your eyes
- Begin to deepen the breath and become aware of your feet on the ground
- Allow your body to start moving in any way it wants to
- Dance like no-one is watching!
The freedom that comes with moving in this way will unblock any lack of motivation and encourage you to head straight out on that run.
- Find a comfortable seated position and close your eyes
- Begin by observing your breath as it moves in and out of your body and consciously slowing down the pace of the breath
- Take the focus into your core (just above the belly button) and breathe here for a few moments
- Ask yourself this question: ‘Do I want to go for a run?’ and see how you feel
Often when we switch our focus away from thoughts, the body will actually be far more encouraging and know what it needs to feel good. Spend more time connecting and listening to the body, and less time believing the negative thoughts.
As a yoga teacher, can you share some of the benefits of yoga for runners?
The body is at its healthiest when we are in balance. Yoga is a great way to help find that balance. Running builds strength through the body, particularly through the legs and glutes. Yoga is a perfect counter stretch for these muscle groups. Gently stretch out the hamstrings in postures like downward-facing dog and forward folds. Once you have this balance of strength and flexibility, running will feel healthier and easier.
Another focus in yoga is breathing. It teaches people how to use their breath to assist the movement and almost becomes a meditation. Leaving people feeling calmer both mentally and physically. Once people get the hang of this through yoga, they can take these breathing techniques into their runs and may find that running can be a meditation of its own. Bringing that same sense of calm and union through mind and body.
For World Mental Health Awareness Month, Maude is running a series of free motivation meditations on Sunday evenings at 8pm – head to @maudehirst to sign up.
Visit lululemon’s new Meditation Space for more inspiration