be present

Try This Expansion Exercise To (Almost) Instantly Relieve Anxiety

This mindfulness practice peels away the layers within, so to speak.

One exercise you can try, in combination with deep, intentional breathing and restorative yoga postures, is an expansion exercise.

This expansion exercise will help facilitate the flow of emotion, allowing you to see what it’s like to be “with” an emotion in a safe space, rather than averting away from it because of fear. The exercise encourages you to allow and accept the existence of this emotion, and guides you through different visuals to help you stay present. The end result is almost always a dissipation of the emotion, and a feeling of calm centeredness, unconcerned with the emotion and what it “might do.”

Paired with restorative yoga, this expansion exercise can be a huge help in removing blocks that may be stifling emotions, and help you gain more clarity as to what is actually happening within. Here’s how to do it.

Start by using your senses to bring you into the present moment. What does your seat feel like on the chair/cushion? What does the texture of your clothes feel like on your skin? Does the temperature of your skin feel cold or warm? How do your feet feel inside your shoes? Continue this way throughout the whole body.

Now, what sounds do you hear? Can you hear all the different ones in the room, even the most subtle? Can you hear your own breath? What about your neighbors

Notice any smells in the room. How many can you notice? Without labeling them as pleasant or unpleasant, just notice. If there’s no smells you recognize right away, can you feel the coolness of the clean air as you inhale?

Finally, notice what you see on the screen of your eyelids. What colors, shapes, lights, or splotches appear, if any? If it is just dark, can you notice that?

Once you have gone through the senses, begin to bring your focus to the internal body. Gently notice which emotion is most present, without labeling it good or bad. Just notice, and maybe say to yourself “there’s anger” or “I feel sadness” in a neutral, non-judgemental tone.

Once you have noticed which emotion or emotions are most present, slowly scan your physical body and notice where these emotions are being housed. In other words, where do you feel this emotion? Is there tightness in the chest? Heaviness in the shoulders? Maybe a dull pain in your neck or temples? A turning or tense stomach?

Once you figure out where this emotion(s) is living, begin to tune into it even more. With your internal awareness, notice the details about this emotion and how it feels in your body. Like a scientist taking notes, ask yourself questions about it: What temperature is it? Is it hot or cold? Does it feel heavy or light? Is it moving or stuck and still? Does it have a color? Is it bright or dull? Are the edges sharp or blurry? Does it stay in one place or does it move around to other body parts? How long do I remember feeling this here?

Continue to ask more questions about it, familiarize yourself as much as you can with this emotion and how it’s manifested in your physical body. Once you have learned as much as you can about it, begin the expansion piece. Taking deeper breaths, imagine that the walls of your body expand around this emotion. With each inhale, you create more and more space around the emotion. Each breath in, you feel the space around the emotion widen and the walls of your body making space. Continue this for 10-15 deep breaths, until you feel that the emotion seems smaller due to how much room you’ve made around it. Remind yourself that you are always bigger than the emotion, and that it can never be bigger than you or overtake you.

Bring yourself back slowly to the room. Keeping your eyes closed, feel back into your senses: what do you feel, hear, smell? And gently opening the eyes, see the room around you. Come back to the room, and give yourself a few minutes to process and reintegrate.


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