Editor’s Note: Think you don’t have time for a workout? Join Stephanie Mansour for a five-part series of five-minute workouts to get moving again. This is Part IV.
With so many new anxieties in the world today, achieving a healthy frame of mind can seem more challenging than in years past. Having a daily moment of intentional quiet can go a long way toward a better outlook.
In Part I of this weekly series, we focused on establishing a calming nighttime routine with five minutes of yoga. In Part II, we created balance both physically and mentally through a five-minute balance workout. In Part III, we demonstrated a simple routine to take a break from work and move your body using only your desk chair.
This five-minute meditation routine combines both yoga and balance to steady the mind, utilize the breath to become more mindful and reduce stress. Through movements and attention to breath, you’ll be on your way to feeling calmer, thinking more clearly and improving concentration and decision-making.
Mindfulness meditation, research has shown, is even connected with being able to process new information. You don’t need to purchase a meditation cushion to perform mindfulness meditation and reap the benefits. This five-minute routine can be done seated on a yoga mat, on the couch or even at your work-from-home desk.
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Maybe you’re in need of meditation to help reduce anxiety, improve feelings of depression or just divert your mind to something else. Mindfulness meditation does, in fact, decreases anxiety and improves self-esteem, studies have shown.
As you move through this meditation, focus on deep breathing. Inhale and exhale through the nose, and start by filling up your belly with air. Then feel the air rise up into the chest. As you exhale, empty the chest first and then feel the stomach deflate like a balloon. This slow, conscious and specific breath pattern aids in focusing the mind to the present moment.
Finally, if your mind wanders easily during this sequence, you can focus on a one-word mantra to recite silently to yourself. Choosing a word like “serenity” or “peace” or “confidence” and syncing your movement with your breath can help transport you to a different world that quiets distractions from the past and future.
Seated cat and cow
Seated in a cross-legged position (if you’re in a chair, keep your feet flat on the ground with your knees bent). Place your hands on your knees. Inhale as you lift your chest forward and arch your back to look up.
Exhale as you round the spine and tuck the chin to the chest, stretching the back.
Repeat this five times. Focus on breathing slowly and moving through these poses mindfully.
Breathing shoulder shrug
While seated, inhale as you shrug your shoulders up to your ears. Then exhale as you release the shoulders. While doing this movement, keep your spine elongated and your naval pulled into your spine to engage your core.
As you release each shrug, think about releasing any negativity or stress and allowing your body to relax.
Repeat this shoulder shrug 10 times.
In your seated position, reach the arms out to the sides and up above you. Relax the shoulders even though you’re reaching the arms up as high as you can.
Press the palms together and bring them down to the center of your chest. Inhale as you reach the arms up and exhale as you bring the palms together and down.
As you reach the arms out and up, think about gathering in your mantra — bringing in more peace or confidence.
As you bring the palms together, think about bringing this feeling to the center of your chest.
Repeat this 10 times.
Hand on belly and hand on heart
This mindful breathing exercise can be done seated, standing or even lying down. Place one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your heart (see photo at top). Breathe in as you feel your stomach press against your hand and then feel your chest expand into your other hand. Exhale and feel your chest release and then your stomach release.
Think about breathing in and embodying your mantra and the feeling you want to feel. Think about exhaling and releasing any negativity or stress or anything that’s getting in the way of your mantra.
Repeat this deep breath 10 times. If it becomes challenging to focus on your breathing while sitting still, you can add a count to your breath. Inhale as you count to four, and exhale as you count down from four.
A mudra is a specific positioning of the hands used as a symbolic gesture. One of the most common mudras is touching your thumb and index finger together and allowing the other fingers to rest. Place your palms face up on your knees. This mudra is known to improve concentration and creativity.
With your hands in this mudra, close your eyes. Relax your shoulders and sit upright. Breathe in to a count of four and breathe out to a count of four.
Repeat this for 10 breaths. Eventually increase your breath count to five, then six, then seven.
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Practicing this five-minute meditation on a regular basis will help you build a positive mindset, supporting you as you go about your daily life with all its ups and downs.
Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up With Steph” on PBS, is a health and wellness journalist and a consultant and weight loss coach for women.