Breathing a sigh of relief

This time last month we were soaking up the last week of school holidays, life felt measured and calm, and intentions to live a “slower” life seemed possible. A month down the line and many of us are reeling at the pace and intensity of the year, wondering where that calm and slow life has disappeared to, and how we could have imagined life other than a frantic whirlwind of activity and rush. We cannot take ourselves out of this mayhem and retreat into another reality (although sometimes that seems very appealing!), we have to learn to live within it, to find our calm within, and to teach our children to do the same.

One of the fabulous tools for this is learning to SIGH! And to really enjoy our sighs and to allow them to bring us back to the present moment and back to ourselves. A sigh is our body’s way of resetting, of grounding us, of bringing our attention back to our breath. And when our attention is back on our breath we are fully present and can feel calm and focused.  It activates the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system and gives us more oxygen so we get a little energy boost too. Try and bring more consciousness to your sighs – when you sit down at your desk, or switch on your car; when you’re sitting at a traffic light or in an intense meeting; when you standing in a queue after rushing through your shop or when your children are arguing at 5pm.  Let go into the sigh, feel your body relax and release the tension you’re holding, feel your energy grounding and feel yourself tapping into your authentic energy.

A yawn is a very powerful tool for this too. Mostly we stifle our yawns as we’ve been told that they’re socially unacceptable and a sign of boredom. And yet our body needs them to give us extra oxygen and to activate our parasympathetic nervous system. So, as you yawn, try and enjoy it, stretch into it and invite more air into your lungs!

Both the sigh and the yawn are termed “recovery loops” by Dr Ela Manga – I was lucky enough to attend one of her wonderful breathwork courses this past weekend, and I’ve mentioned her, and her new book The Energy Code, before in my blog. Ela is a medical doctor who brings mindfulness back into medicine and specializes in energy management and restoring optimal wellbeing. She is also a co-founder of Breathwork Africa and you’ll be hearing more about their work though my blog in the future, and you can read more about Ela and about Breathwork Africa  

Breathwork is such an important tool for stress management and mindfulness. It’s science and research based. It’s simple. It’s effective. And it’s accessible. Which means we can all use it in the moment and make ourselves and our bodies feel and work better.  This year I’m looking at bringing more of these tools practically into schools, classrooms and homes through various workshops and through working with the schools, and I will keep you updated on this in my blog, Facebook and Instagram feeds. In fact, breathwork was cited by MindBodyGreen as one of the “11 Wellness Trends to Watch in 2018” as people are turning to it “as an advanced alternative to medicine”. The article is an interesting read but for those lacking time, the breathwork section is number 11 at the bottom of the article if you want to skip to that, and is very enlightening and insightful.

I wish you all a healthy and joy-filled 2018. We all need to keep practicing gratitude to help us tap into the abundance in our lives and to savour the joy. I was amazed and touched by the very heartfelt and poignant gratitude notes left by the younger generation in our gratitude jar over the holidays. I’d left it on a low side table with post it notes and sparkly pens and over the holiday it filled up. When we opened it up to read, there were gratitudes for “my family, love, my cousins, the waves, the earth, my legs, TV, iPads, Christmas and Christmas presents, friends, holidays, that I was born, my Mum and Dad” and so much more. My heart overflowed with gratitude and love as I read through them. It’s a powerful exercise which I’m determined to practice even more this year.

Finally, just a reminder on how to access some of the apps I mention in my talks and blogs – please see the information below. As much as we’d love to escape to a deserted island somewhere far away, most of us can’t, and life isn’t slowing down for us either, so we need to find tools which we can use daily to help us live more calm, centered, and joy-filled lives. I plan to give you more of these tools throughout the year and we’ll be looking at other factors that influence our health and wellness enormously like different aspects of nutrition, fermented foods, sleep, collagen and bone broth, plastics in our life, and much more. I hope you’ll join me on this journey and together we can help create another world for ourselves and our children

A few years ago, the Calm app jumped in price (as their content expanded) and our Rand fell. I contacted them as I recommend their app so much and told them how distressed I was as this wonderful app (which was rated Apple’s App of the Year for 2017– don’t say I didn’t tell you it was good!) was now becoming inaccessible to South Africans. They said that I could give this free access to the entire app to people (and particularly students and teachers) who couldn’t afford it. Log onto on your computer. Scroll down to Schools at the bottom of the page or click on this link Fill out your details on the form, citing the ages of your children or the children you work with and their school. Press Apply and you should receive free access. It’s an amazing initiative driven by the philosophy “If every 8 year old is taught mediation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation” Dalai Lama. If you can afford it please buy the app but if you’re not sure if you’re going to use it or enjoy it please try this and pay next year if you can! The Daily Calm and the Sleep Stories for kids (and adults) are my favourite parts of the app!

Headspace, another brilliant app with some great animations explaining mindfulness and meditation, has a very similar offering in their “get some give some” initiative. They also have special programmes and meditations for classrooms and children. However when I tried to log on this week I received an error message. I’ve written to them and will keep you updated in my next blog or you can contact me if you need more details but you can still access some of their little animated videos online, as well as their “10 minutes for 10 days” free programme.

I hope those links help you and your classrooms to find some calm!

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