Despite being someone who loves pursuing self-improvement and cultivating a healthy lifestyle, I increasingly feel like I need an extended break from the myriad wellness advice being pushed our way. There is simply. so. much.—and a sizable chunk of the advice on how we should be living (wait no, thriving) in our modern world is attached to one of two things: sweeping lifestyle changes that may feel unsustainable for many people or major purchases ($$$); sometimes both. (I’m recalling a time when I wondered if I needed to reassess my entire kitchen and turn it into a raw food oasis. I didn’t, phew!)
Now that I’ve reached my thirties, and I feel that, largely, I like my current lifestyle, I’m not particularly compelled to uproot the changes and progress I’ve made. Rather, I’m far more inspired by small tweaks that complement my current lifestyle and feel accessible. In other words, no complicated detoxes, no extra-long morning rituals that aren’t toddler-compatible…just listening to myself and what I need in the moment.
If you’re in the same boat, you may find Katie Brindle, a Yang Shen expert, a refreshing voice in the wellness sphere. Yang Shen is the ancient Chinese art of self-healing, and Brindle has beautifully distilled its teachings into pleasurable, doable lifestyle tweaks that you can start anytime. The following are a few of the Yang Shen-inspired activities Brindle recommends to restore your spirits and nourish your body from the inside out.
How to Practice Yang Shen According to Katie Brindle
1. Look after your circulation when you’re stressed. Brindle explains that chronic stress can interfere with our circulation and emphasizes that paying attention to your circulation can help you move through a stressful period more healthfully:
“One of the biggest enemies of blood flow and qi is stress. The stress hormone cortisol causes reduced blood flow in many parts of the body. The muscles start to will feel dry and fibrous through lack of nourishment from blood and lactic acid can build up causing pain, tension knots, and inflammation,” she says. “Stress also has a negative impact on circulation because the ‘fight or flight’ response diverts blood and qi away from the skin and into the muscles, so we can run from danger. This process results in less oxygen and vital nutrients passing into the skin, leading to muscle tension, inflexible fascia, and stagnant lymph as well as wrinkles and dryness in the face.”
Starting with an awareness of when you become stressed and feel tense, short of breath, etc. can help you tune in and nurture yourself in the moment. This act of mindfulness alone may help you feel an immediate internal shift. Plus, it prepares you to make intentional choices as you move through the day.
2. Nourish your body with gentle movement. Brindle advocates going gentle on your body when it comes to exercise. “Exercise does not need to be strenuous to be effective. Believe it or not, you can do too much exercise, especially if you’re feeling tired or unwell. It only takes a few minutes of low-intensity exercise, such as walking, to trigger the release of endorphins and increase your metabolism,” she explains.
“Excess stress is a big factor in weight retention. So, choosing mild forms of exercise such as yoga and Qi Gong can relax your body and mind to ease the stresses of daily life.” In short, feeling and looking your best isn’t dependent on a hardcore sweat sesh. Unless you’re truly craving a hardcore workout, there’s no need to pressure yourself to do any exercise that wipes you out.
3. Cultivate an internal smile. One of the most effective ways to nourish ourselves and heal our spirits at any given moment in the day is through breath, Brindle argues. “This is can easily be done in the bustle of daily life by ‘breathing’ a smile deep into the abdomen. This simple technique automatically switches the nervous system into its rest and digest phase and overrides our fight or flight response and any negativity we may well be feeling in a stressed state,” she says. “In ancient China,” she continues, “the Taoists taught that a constant inner smile, a smile to oneself, insured health, happiness and longevity. Why? Smiling to yourself is like basking in love: you become your own best friend. Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony with yourself.” (Try Katie Brindle’s Rescue Breath.)
4. For better sleep at night, take time to reset throughout the day. To prepare our bodies for the best sleep and restoration possible, Brindle suggests taking time during the day to find your center to balance that go-go-go energy (a.k.a. yang energy) with calming, regenerating yin energy.
“One way to do this is to practice proper breathing and mini relaxations throughout the day. These will keep your body primed for the night. It really is a great antidote to daily stress whilst you are rushing about your day,” Brindle states. “Many of us wake up feeling tired and sluggish, which is often down to poor circulation. Regular practice of the Reset Ritual will rectify this and is brilliant to do on waking and, for example, every time you wash your hands throughout the day.” Brindle says that tying your reset moment to something routine, like washing you hands, can help you remember to do it regularly.
What are your favorite ways to check in with yourself during a hectic day?
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Photo: The Hayou Method via Instagram,Motoki Tonn on Unsplash