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Timing is everything

Timing is everything There are optimum moments in the day when you should perform activities to enhance your wellbeing and inner harmony Now the clocks have finally gone forward and the evenings begin to stretch ahead of us, you may well feel you have more time in the day. It’s the perfect opportunity to shake off any winter lethargy and reawaken your body, which may be feeling stagnant and emotionally blocked as it emerges from hibernation mode. From the moment your alarm goes off in the morning up until bedtime, your body follows a unique pattern of energies, which can be 64 april 2018 enhanced by performing specific self-care tasks at certain times of the day. Throughout the ages, many different cultures have performed rituals at specific times of the day to help nurture spiritual health and wellbeing. In fact, in Ayurveda, adhering to a daily routine is thought to bring balance to your mind and body while also helping to foster inner tranquillity and greater self-esteem. Here we suggest the best way to break up your day, and reap the benefits. Sunrise Perform yoga While fast-paced cardio gets your heart pumping to invigorate your body and provide a rush of feel-good endorphins, slower forms of exercise, such as yoga, provide the same energising effects while also helping to create a sense of inner peace. The restorative poses that centre around this ancient practice ignite your body’s parasympathetic system, which makes you

Alternative therapies feel more relaxed. Research also shows that yoga increases GABA, a brain chemical that regulates mood and lowers anxiety. Separate studies reveal that regular yoga changes your response to stress, making you more able to cope when the going gets tough. One study found that daily yoga and meditation over an eight-week period helped shrink parts of the amygdala, the part of the brain linked to processing stress. Traditionally, the practice of Surya Namaskar (known as sun salutation, a yoga flow sequence that stretches and flexes the limbs) was performed as a ritual at daybreak to honour the sun and arrival of a new day. ‘Yogic texts suggest waking up one-and-ahalf hours before sunrise to do yoga. This is to synchronise your day with the rhythm of the sun and is the time a shift of energy fills the air,’ explains Emma Burns, founder and yoga teacher at Me Love Yoga ( Dedicate 20 minutes to a stretching session as the sun rises to gently wake up your body. Flexing your limbs will get your blood circulating to your organs, help improve concentration, as well as ease any muscular tension. Focusing on your breath while stretching also rebalances your body and mind. Some static poses can also be beneficial. ‘Cat pose, where you come onto all fours and engage the core and parivrtta sukhasana – where you sit cross legged and slowly twist side to side – are both good poses to do in the morning as they lift your spine in different directions helping to release tension,’ adds Emma. Mid morning Set goals There’s no better time to reassess your goals then mid-morning while you still feel ready for the day ahead. Giving yourself specific goals offers you direction and making the effort to write down your intentions will make them more concrete. ‘In order to assess your life goals with some simple self-reflection, you need to have a good mindset and a positive outlook. This means the morning, when you’ve had ample sleep or have already completed your morning to-do list, will be a good time to find some thinking space,’ says life coach Nimisha Brahmbhatt ( Dedicate 10 minutes every morning to organising your thoughts and follow the SMART system. ‛S stands for specific, M means measurable, A alludes to setting achievable goals, R is about being realistic and T stands for time-bound. Have a definitive end point,’ continues Nimisha. When goal setting, zone in on different areas of your life, from personal to professional, and try using the power of gemstones to give the focus and energy you need. Garnet helps harness creative powers, while citrine can eradicate negative energy and bring about prosperity. Wear bracelets made from these stones and you will have a constant reminder of your goals. ‘Take time to reassess your goals on a daily basis to help you stay focused,’ adds Nimisha. lunchtime Give thanks Lunchtime in Mediterranean cultures is followed by an afternoon siesta. The idea is to allow ample time to savour a home cooked meal with loved ones, followed by a rest to take in nourishment and improve digestion. ‘On a wellbeing level, resting after meals slows us down and helps us to be more in the present moment,’ says transformational life coach, macrobiotic counsellor and chef Nicky Clinch ( While a lengthy break at lunchtime isn’t realistic for many of us, we can spend time counting our blessings at mealtimes. The Japanese are often heard uttering ‘itadakimasu’ before meals which translates as ‘I humbly receive,’ and in the UK many people say grace before their meals. While throughout many cultures, from the ancient Greeks to Indian Hindus, food was considered a sacred offering to the gods. Pause to give thanks before you sit down and tuck into your midday meal. You could express your gratitude with zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s Serving Food prayer; ‘In this food, I see clearly the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence.’ Evening Journal Putting pen to paper is a powerful way to process feelings and create self-awareness. Jotting down your thoughts and emotions allows you to connect with your stream of consciousness. One study showed that keeping track of feelings in a diary helped to reduce activity in the brain's amygdala, which plays a role in stress and negative emotions. ‘Journaling enforces mindfulness and allows you to take the time to acknowledge your feelings, and accept them for what they are without judgement,’ says Nimisha. ‘Most people also find that by journaling they ‘Take time to reassess your goals on a daily basis’ are able to focus on gratitude for the simple things in life, which in turn helps boost their mood as they are connecting with the positive rather than worrying about the negative.’ Set aside time after dinner when you can process thoughts and feelings from the day without any distractions. ‘Some people find the GREAT method a good one to follow,’ advises Nimisha. ‘G stands for gratitude, writing what you are grateful for, R for repetition of positive affirmations and EAT stands for emotion, action and thought.’ For each entry write down what went well, what didn’t go well and what you will do differently tomorrow. ‘The useful part is to come back to what you’ve written and take action, that is what makes it most productive,’ explains Nimisha. Before bed Meditate Sleep offers your body the chance to rejuvenate, but if you often go to bed with your mind racing and struggle to nod off, then adding a meditation session to your evening routine could help. ‘Meditating at the end of the day will help bring the mind back into relative stillness. This can help you fall asleep quicker and get a good night’s sleep,’ says Emma. ‘Scientific studies have shown that meditation can structurally change your brain for the better helping to develop more compassion, love, patience, generosity and forgiveness.’ There are many forms of meditation but there is specific evidence showing the sleep-enhancing benefits of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation focuses on your breathing to let go of the busyness in your mind. ‘Try counting your breaths,’ suggests Emma. ‘Set a timer, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Allow your body to settle, then become aware of your breathing. Inhale then exhale. At the very end of your out breath mentally count “one”. Continue in this way, counting as you end each exhale until you reach 10.’ feature louise pyne photos istock, shutterstock april 2018 65

Country Walking – the first ever issue, April/May 1987