photo by Garsett LarosseIf you’re like almost everyone I know, your first impulse when you get home from a long day at work or a busy day running errands is to grab a bag of chips, a beer, or some kind of snack, sprawl out on the couch, and watch TV for four hours before going to bed.

You may have had a conflict with a co-worker or felt overwhelmed by the kids, and with so much drudgery and frustration, the last thing you want to do is something productive—like reading to your children, paying your bills, or finishing certain chores.

This makes perfect sense. When we feel overwhelmed by the dense energy that fills our hectic lives, we think we need to neutralize the bad heaviness with things that supposedly make us feel good: eating sweet and oily foods, watching movies or TV, and finding the most horizontal position we can for our bodies to experience weightlessness. While these may seem satisfying in the moment, they add heaviness to our material bodies, which can burden us later and keep us entrenched in our problems.

The following exercise calls upon you to create a short sitting practice for yourself when you feel you’re ready to submit to your end-of-day impulses or even sleepiness at the office. It is designed to foster alertness, which will counter the inevitable lethargy of a taxing day.

When you’re done with work or errands or have finished your dinner, find somewhere quiet in your home or office to sit. This can be in a basic cross-legged position in the middle of the floor, against a wall, or on a chair with your feet on the ground if you find significant discomfort in sitting with crossed legs.

Close your eyes, and take long and slow breaths. Breathe in through your nose for a count of three, hold for a moment, and then breathe out through your nose for a count of six. Repeat this thirty times or however many times you feel is sufficient. (If breathing in and out through your nose is difficult for you, try breathing in through your nose and then out through your mouth.)

The breathing will deliver more oxygen to your entire body, which will stimulate cellular activity in the brain and calm the nerves.

As this exercise is designed to foster alertness, it is important to have an erect spine. If sitting cross-legged makes your shoulders slump forward and your lower back sink, sit on a couple of folded blankets, large pillow, or a yoga block to raise your pelvis. This will help to properly align your spine. (Editor’s note: Think of a string tied to the top of your head pulling your spine up until it is straight.)

Once you’ve completed the breathing, sit for a moment and observe how you feel about vegging out as opposed to doing something you’ve been putting off. Do you want to spend the whole evening watching TV, or do you want to watch only one of the four shows? Do you want to eat those fatty chips, or are you willing to try a piece of fruit, sip some herbal tea, or not consume anything at all?

The Guru In You will be available Dec. 28 from AmazonA great first step in becoming more aware of your place in this material world is to challenge yourself to crave a lighter energy, and this awareness can begin with the heaviest hours of your day.

Yogi Cameron Is an Ayurveda and Yoga Therapist offering natural medicines and treatments to help people live a healthier and happier life. (Reprinted with Permission of Harper One from the new book, due out in January, “The Guru in You: A Personalized Program for Rejuvenating Your Body and Soul “. © 2011 by Cameron Alborzian. All rights reserved.

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