First up on your daily to-do list…

It’s the middle of the week and I’m sitting at my desk with a massive to-do list. There are five different projects that I’m juggling, I’m answering questions from my teammates, and making sure that I’m communicating everything to my clients that they need to know. I’ve also been on and off the phone with a vendor that’s working on a print job for us. Just your average day… you know the drill. And that to-do list seems to just keep getting longer.

If I’m not being mindful about the day, I’ll stay tied to my desk, hunched over my laptop, locked in focus on my work. Or trying to stay locked in focus. But, I know that’s probably not the healthiest or most effective way to get everything done. At some point my energy is bound to crash.

As a yoga instructor, I’ve always focused on pranayama, or breath work in my practice, but realize it’s not something that everyone would intuitively think to use outside of the yoga studio. Breath work resets the nervous system by pumping extra oxygen to the lungs and blood stream, relieving stress and calming the mind and body.

Pranayama can be so effective, that fitness trackers now have “breathe” and “relax” features. Bringing awareness to your breath is not only is a natural stress reliever, it helps ground you mentally, allowing you to be fully present by checking in with what’s going on around you physically and mentally. In just 30 seconds, this can help you find clarity at work, as you step back from your to-do list, think things through, and prioritize tasks to keep you moving forward through the day.

How do you do it?

There’s no need for a fancy watch to fit some breath work into your day. You can take a moment to re-center yourself while you’re sitting at your desk, or even while you’re in a meeting or driving. Here’s the most basic way you can start:

1. Sit with a tall spine, your feet on the ground.

2. Breathe in deeply and feel the air pass through your nose.

3. While inhaling, allow your belly to expand.

4. Envision exhaling whatever stress or mental block is on your mind.

5. As you continue to breathe, let your shoulders relax.

6. Relax your face, softening your eyes and your jawbones.

7. Find a sense of ease as tension dissipates across your body.

The goal is to continue until you create longer exhales than inhales, triggering the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows our breathing, lowers our heart rate and blood pressure, relaxes our blood vessels, and heals the body. It lets me stop and listen to my intuition, to be aware of the physical space I’m in, the people I’m with, and the ideas that they are sharing.

If there is one thing we all have in common, it’s this simple force that keeps us alive – our breath. Whether you have ever given intentional awareness to your breath or not, once you start practicing pranayama, it can benefit not only you, but your team and everyone you come in contact with every day.

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