Get into the right headspace for the holidays.
Top performers know that mindset is key to achieving their goals. They also know they need to clear their heads to have the right mental space for their pursuits. Here are two body releases and one self-care technique from Jill Miller, self-care expert and creator of Treat While You Train, which are designed to help you keep your head on straight through the whirl of the holidays — or any busy time of year.
To get started, you’ll need two Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls.
Hum Breath for Vagus Nerve
Your vagus nerve is your major nerve responsible for the relaxation response. If you have trouble clearing your head from your day, your past or your future, there are breath techniques that stimulate this nerve to help give your brain a vacation from those thoughts.
The key is abdominal thoracic breathing — a dynamic inhalation — followed by exhalation with a hum sound you sustain as long as you can. The vocalization and vibration stimulate your vagus nerve.
- Begin in a seated position or lying down.
- Exhale until you’re empty.
- Inhale into your belly, and feel it swell until you’ve reached about 60 to 70 percent capacity. As you continue to inhale, feel your breath transition to fill your rib cage.
- Exhale with a hum sound for as long as you can.
Put Your Back on Your Back
Equipment: two Yoga Tune Up (YTU) balls
The deep back muscles are a kind of protective soft-tissue sleeve for the dozens of nerves that branch off the spinal cord and roam into the rest of the body. Sitting for long periods and checking our phones can cause us to round our upper backs, which leaves these tissues chronically overstretched and out of place.
This move uses the Ball Plow technique to return those overstretched muscles to their optimal position and “hug” your central nervous system, as well as improve spinal alignment and strength. Your complete focus on one side at a time gives you feedback about the tone and texture of each side of your back, and will keep your mind in your body instead of wandering away.
- Set a timer for two minutes per side.
- Lie down and place two YTU balls to the side of your lower rib cage.
- As you lean onto them, shift slowly to get the balls to bunch and slide your tissues from your side toward your spine (rather than letting the balls just roll underneath you). You’ll also feel the balls rolling through each set of ribs.
- Pause and breathe into the balls.
- Move the balls higher up your rib cage and repeat, continuing all the way up one side.
- Move the balls to the other side, and repeat the sequence all the way up the rib cage.
Pranic Bath (aka, Trapeze Warm-Up)
This complex arm movement, borrowed from trapeze artists’ training, makes you concentrate on the dynamic motion of your shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands, coupled with your breath — leaving no time for distracting thoughts! You can also visualize clarity washing over you with each inhalation, and confusion or obstruction dissipating with each exhalation.
- Stand tall and bring your arms together in front of your body, palms up with pinkies and elbows touching.
- Inhale as you bend your elbows and sweep your wrists up and over your head.
- Roll your wrists so that the backs of your hands are touching, and exhale as you shoot your hands straight up overhead and then let them come apart to arc behind you, tracing big circles just beyond your peripheral vision.
- Speed up the movement, or try reversing it to really clear your head!