Most of us have to do it every day. And if you have to do it one way, you’re probably going to have to do it the other way too. Whether you’re doing it by yourself, or up close and personal with a bunch of strangers, even your commute to work can give you an opportunity to bring a bit of yoga into your day. (Wait – what did you think I was talking about?) Anyway, here are some ideas you might like to try.
Walking and Wondering
Try to make your walk to the station or bus stop more mindful than moan-ful. For a start, try to leave home with a little time to spare so you’re not under pressure to break a land speed record. As you’re walking see if you can repeat a simple mantra with each step to help you keep your mind in that moment, rather than rushing off to thoughts of the day to come. You might try “lifting, moving, placing” as your foot moves through the air with each step. Or perhaps just “walking, walking, walking” is enough to keep you present. But please remember to look both ways before crossing any roads. I believe getting run over is a sure fire way to bring you out of your bliss.
From top to toes.
If you’ve successfully wrestled fellow passengers to the ground and got yourself a seat (only joking – obviously) or if you’re sitting in your car then there’s a chance to find calmness here too.
Ultimately you want to build up your mental stamina so you can remain in a state of bliss for the whole journey. But you need to create this capacity over time. To begin with, every time the train pulls into a station, the bus pauses at a stop, or your car is stationary at some lights, take a moment to do this simple body scan. (If you’re in charge of driving heavy machinery, please note that we don’t want you too blissed out and you really should keep your eyes open for this one.)
Close your eyes. (Not if you’re behind the wheel!). With your awareness starting at the top of your head, scan your whole body. Imagine it moving over your face and jaw, through your neck, shoulders, chest, abdominals, buttocks, hips, thighs, knees, calves, feet and toes and see if, as you scan, you can spot any areas where you might be holding tension. When you find one, see if you can send an exhale into that bit of you and allow the breath to release it. If you can’t release it, see if you can imagine how it would feel to release it. When you reach your toes, pause. Breathe. Smile. Gently open your eyes.
Don’t worry if next time you do it, the same awkward spot is just as it was, or if the tension has moved somewhere else. That’s all part of the experience.
Stop seeing red.
Depending on how comfortable you are with other commuters thinking you’re a bit weird, this might be one that the car drivers (and passengers) amongst you want to use. But if you’re happy busting out some moves on the Northern Line, or the number 249 bus, don’t let me stop you.
You can do some or all of these whenever it’s safe to do so (and if you’re not sure what that means you probably shouldn’t be in charge of a motor vehicle) to keep those niggly tight spots from taking hold:
· Neck rolls: take your chin to chest, then let your left ear slowly move to your left shoulder. Now roll the chin across the front of your body and let the right ear move to your right shoulder. Repeat a few times.
· Shrug it off: lift shoulders up towards ears, then let them drop down. Let shoulders make big circles one way, then the other. Feel broad across the collar bones and shoulder blades.
· Take a wrist: circle both hands to release tension in forearms and wrists. Put fingertips on the bottom of the steering wheel and gently push the bottom of the hand forward, so that you feel a stretch through the underneath of the forearm. Use right hand to gently push on the back of your left hand, as if you were trying to get the left fingertips to touch the left wrist. WARNING – THEY WON’T SO DON’T TRY TO MAKE THEM! This will help to release tension across the back of the hand and into the forearm. Repeat on the other hand.
· Flubber lips: Take an inhale then ‘flubber’ the lips with an exhale to release any tension in mouth. This also reminds me of doing an impression of a snorting horse. But that might just be me.
· Chew it over: Move your mouth and lips as if you were eating a massive marshmallow. Move your jaw around, move your lips. For added entertainment imagine you’re in one of those really badly dubbed Kung Fu movies.
· Stamp it out: Make circles with your feet to release tension in the ankles. Waggle your feet up and down. To give your mind a little workout too, see if you can make a clockwise circle with your right foot whilst making a counter-clockwise circle with your right hand. Have a go on the other side. Wiggle your toes.
If you haven’t been doing this since you left home, I doubt the journey has gone well. Using your breath is the quickest way to get a sense of calm. See if you can balance your breath – gently encouraging the inhale and exhale to be the same length, the same effort and the same volume. If the inhale lasts for a count of 3, the exhale is the same – or 4, or 7; whatever your count is allow it to feel effortless. Counting the breath can also give the mind a useful anchor to keep coming back to when it wanders off to wondering who in the carriage smells like a wet dog. And it’s not even raining.