May 15, 2013
The number 8 has long been an important number in various mind-body disciplines, and to honor that we offer this 8-step, 8-minute spa retreat for your soul—an opportunity in your day to focus on the mind, body and breath.
When we get wrapped up in the stresses of everyday life, a few little “time-outs” to nourish mind, body and breath can help us improve the overall quality of our lives and reduce future suffering. The following tips can help all of us not only reduce our stress, but also to make the most of everyday life.
What You’ll Need:
- 1 aromatherapy candle and matches
- 1 mat or chair
- 1 cup of various fruit (e.g., strawberries, apple, banana, grapes, peaches), cut into small pieces
- Soft, relaxing music (e.g., natural-sounding environmental music)
0:00-1:00: Be sure that the temperature of the surrounding area is comfortable and quiet, and that you will be uninterrupted for at least 8 minutes. Silence any telephones and minimize other distractions. Have the fruit within reach, in a dish or container, and set a low volume for your inspirational music. Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs outstretched or your ankles crossed, or you may opt to sit in a chair if that is more comfortable. Notice how you are feeling in your bones and muscles and honor that instead of judging it. Just begin to connect to your feelings about your body as you scan yourself.
1:00-2:00: Light the candle in front of you. Inhale and exhale slowly with your eyes closed until you can smell the aromatherapy from the candle. When you start to perceive the scent, concentrate on that scent as you continue to breathe deeply, completing approximately 10 deep breath cycles.
2:00-4:00: Concentrate on the power of the breath as you deepen your sense of awareness. Slow down your rate of breathing, inhaling as you count in your mind “1, 2, 3.” On “3” take a slight pause and exhale, reversing the process as you count backwards in your mind “3, 2, 1.” Without forcing it, work to balance the breath, taking the same amount of time to inhale as you do to exhale.
4:00-5:00: After completing a few breath cycles of inhaling and exhaling while counting and keeping the eyes closed, substitute single-syllable words for the numbers, such as “I-am-peace” on the inhalation, and “Let-it-go” on the exhalation. These positive words become your mantras as you combine brain, body and breath—visualizing and affirming positive thoughts and images during the breathing and sitting process. This process of combining the brain with the breath enhances the body’s sympathetic nervous system, which helps bring a restorative feeling to the body, enabling the body to help heal itself from the inside out.
5:00-6:00: Slowly open your eyes and notice the flame of the candle—become aware of whether it stays steady or if it flickers. Blink slowly as many times as you need to in order to focus on the flame. Think of the flame as a metaphor for the light inside of you that keeps you going through the stresses of daily life. Feel yourself strong in the brightness and heat from the candle.
6:00-7:00: Connecting back into the physical body, reach your arms onto the floor behind you, placing the palms down as you prepare for a seated backbend. Think of lifting up and back with the heart, gazing toward the ceiling or sky slowly to avoid letting the head drop back too far back. Find a position that you can maintain comfortably and concentrate on inhaling—filling your lungs with nourishing oxygen—as the spine extends. In this position you should still be able to lower your eyes and spot the flame of the candle in front of you. Imagine feeling the heat and light of the candle in your heart space, filling you with the energy you need to continue on with your day.
7:00-8:00: Slowly lie down on the floor and bend your knees if they are not already bent, placing feet flat on the floor. Moving into bridge, keep your hands on the floor by your sides and slowly raise your hips toward the ceiling or sky and hold this position. Imagine the flow of blood bringing nutrients, oxygen and energy toward the heart and head. Also feel the muscles of your hips, which are normally flexed while seated, now begin to open and stretch. This pose invigorates the brain, body and breath connection by serving as an inversion, altering for just a minute the way in which we see things, giving us a fresh approach to life.
Slowly return to your initial sitting position, blow out the candle and reach for the container of fruit. Close your eyes and eat the fruit with your eyes closed, concentrating on the taste alone. Try to consume only one piece of fruit at a time, avoiding combining the flavors in your mouth. Taking the time to eat with the eyes closed turns on the sense of taste and allows you to taste each individual flavor without rush. Take as long as you need to in order to finish this mind-body snack without rushing.
Now that you’ve taken a quick “spa break for the soul,” you can return to your normal routine feeling invigorated, refreshed and restored.
Lawrence Biscontini Contributor
Lawrence Biscontini, MA, is an award-winning group fitness instructor recognized worldwide for his innovative programming. He was the first mindful movement specialist to win multiple awards from ACE, IDEA & Inner IDEA, Can Fit Pro and ECA. Lawrence has created nutritional menus for spas from Manhattan to Mykonos, and has appeared many times on national TV.More Blogs by Lawrence Biscontini