Friday, November 28, 2008

The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide

Kate Hanley is the author of The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide . I don't know about you, but when someone says "you just need to 'chill'" what does that mean exactly? This holiday week and season is very tough for us, but how do you relax when grief has taken over...I asked Kate to provide a part of her book that might help you breathe better and get through the week when grief or anger smacks you in the face.

Here's my story where I could've used Kate: Yesterday, I went to the cemetery only to find someone walking their dog there and the dog urinated right next to one of the stones. Well, perhaps I should've used one of Kate's breathing techniques instead of telling the woman off -- I told her my husband was buried there and what she was doing was EXTREMELY disrespectful and she had no manners. I told her to put the dog on a leash and walk him somewhere else. She walked away while I drove away but when I turned and looked, the dog was still going all over the place. What nerve! I said what I said, but boy was I angry! I'm going to go practice Kate's techniques. First a Q&A with her:

How did you come up with the idea for The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide?
I’ve been practicing yoga for 13 years, and I’ve come to realize that the one deep breath I take when I get a last-minute project heaped on my plate is even more important than the many deep breaths I take during yoga class. Because in that moment when my carefully planned schedule flies out the window, I need all the help I can get so that I don’t make a bad situation worse by stressing out. I love going to yoga class, but I have come to realize that the true power of cultivating a self-care practice comes in the midst of your everyday life. I also know that a lot of people are looking for a way to feel less frazzled, but they have no idea where to start. So I had the idea for a book that would help people of all ages and fitness levels remember to take that breath, regardless of their exposure to—or propensity toward—all things “woo woo.”
In addition to modified yoga poses, I also include mini practices from meditation, breath work, nutrition, Ayurveda, acupressure, and more. It’s one-stop shopping for self-care remedies. Because that was another guiding principle when I was writing the book: Offer the best solutions for each situation, and compile all this incredible information that’s been cultivated over the last 3,000 years and make it accessible to today’s incredibly busy, time-crunched person.
Some of these remedies you suggest take just 30 seconds. Can something that quick really change the way you feel?
Absolutely. That being said, I’m not going to tell you that you can completely defuse a stressful situation by doing 30 seconds of deep breathing. Nothing in the book is going to solve all your problems, I am so sorry to say. But in any situation, how you react to it plays a huge role in how much of an impact it has on your wellbeing. And if you take even one deep breath or make one mindful adjustment to your posture before you respond, you are going to react from a place of awareness instead of knee-jerk impulse. The impact may be incremental, but it’s like the law of inertia: Just as an object in motion has a tendency to remain in motion, if you take a step to improve your wellbeing, no matter how small, you have a greater tendency to move toward balance, calm, and contentment. In most cases, the most difficult piece of any of the remedies I suggest is to simply remember to do them in the first place.
What is it about remembering to take a deep breath or adjust your posture that’s so powerful?
Either of these actions reminds you that you have a body, and that you are more than just a never-ending stream of thoughts. And that’s a good thing because our bodies are where are deepest wisdom lies—whether you call it a gut instinct or a feeling in your bones. Taking a deep breath or adjusting your posture works on many levels: First, it helps your body work efficiently—you get more oxygen and you remove any barriers to the flow of breath and energy throughout the body. Second, by shifting your attention away from whatever situation is causing you stress and turning it toward your breath or your body, you give your mind a chance to get off the treadmill of negative thinking and create an opportunity for your deeper knowledge to rise to the surface and be heard. And third, it takes your intention—to react to a situation with a clear head—and puts action behind it. And without action, all your best intentions are just nice ideas.
How do you envision a reader using the book?
I like to imagine you keeping it on your bedside table, and before you go to sleep or get out of bed, you look up whatever’s going on in your life at the moment and get some ideas on how to help yourself through it. I wanted the book to be incredibly relevant to your daily life, so I organized the chapters around all the major parts of your life – at the office, out on the streets, in love and friendship, and dealing with life’s biggest challenges. I also included remedies for the most common mental and physical woes—from PMS to constipation—and cross-referenced everything so that you can go through and cook up a prescription for whatever’s ailing you. I was inspired by the idea of the 30-minute meal (thanks, Rachael Ray), and wrote my remedies in the tried-and-true recipe format, so you can see at a glance what you’ll need, how long it will take, and exactly what steps you need to take in what order.
You also run a website, What’s the site about?
At, I write a weekly column called the Vegimental that explores one simple thing you can do to help you deal with your busy life, whether it’s a yoga pose, a breathing technique, or just food for thought. I created the word Vegimental out of three words: regimen, elemental, and Vitameatevegamin, and it reflects my belief that the best approach to wellness is to keep things simple, add in a little discipline, and always maintain a hefty dash of humor. The site is also a place for people to share their self-care tricks. If you come by the site, please sign up for the newsletter! That’s how I gauge how well I’m doing. In this day and age, when time is scarce, I figured that the number of people who say “Yes, I’d like to hear from you on a regular basis” is more valuable than the number of people who stumble across your site and may or may not ever come back. I’m at 1200 subscribers and rising. Come join those of us who are dedicated to the fine art of feeling better and better!
Grief is an inevitable part of life, and about the only advice we ever receive is to “give it time”—essentially meaning, “ignore it and it will eventually fade.” It’s a natural tendency to want to avoid feelings of grief because they can be so painful. But the practice I suggest encourages those painful feelings to rise up so that they may ultimately lift completely.

This breathing exercise comes from yoga and can be done every day until you start to feel like yourself again. It’s known as Warrior’s Breath, and it invites fresh breath deep into the lungs where yoga and Chinese medicine believe grief takes up residence in the body. This belief makes sense from a practical standpoint—think about the last time you were so sad that you not only started crying, but your breath also got caught in your lungs, resulting in sobs. By filling this area with breath, you’ll flush out any air or emotions that may have become lodged deep within the body and pave the way for new, more life-sustaining air to take its place.
Don’t discount the power of this exercise because it seems too simple—after you’ve done it for a minute or so, you’ll realize that it takes all of your concentration and a considerable physical effort to keep going. Keep at it as long as you can, and if it elicits tears, don’t be surprised. Just take them as a sign that your body is processing the grief, and notice how much better you feel when the tears are through. You’re going to get through this, particularly now that you have something you can do to help the process along besides sitting around and waiting.

Remedy: Warrior’s Breath
Comfortable clothing
Bare feet
Time Needed:
Five to ten minutes

Stand with your feet three to four feet apart, toes pointed out slightly. Bend your knees and lower your tush as if you were straddling an invisible horse. Bring your palms to touch in front of your heart. Inhale a deep breath through your nose as you reach your arms out to your sides at shoulder height, palms facing away from you. Exhale through your mouth, making a soft “ha” sound as if you were trying to fog up a mirror, as you bring your palms together again in front of your chest. After you’ve got the hang of timing your movement to your breath and making the fog-up-a-mirror sound, begin exhaling through your nose while still making a similar “whoosh” noise. The noise won’t be as loud, but it should still be audible to you. Continue as long as you can. Aim for at least fifteen breaths, more if you can hack it. When you’re done, straighten your legs, bring your hands to your hips, and breathe normally for several moments before resuming normal activity.

Modifications: If standing with knees bent is too strenuous, you can also do this exercise while sitting cross-legged on the floor or on the edge of a hard-backed chair.
Benefits: The Warrior’s Breath flushes stale air and old, stagnant emotions out of the lungs and torso. It bathes the lungs in fresh oxygen and energy. Making the “ha” sound requires that you constrict the back of your throat, which regulates the flow of air and adds a layer of mental complexity that gives you something to focus on other than how sad you are.

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