I’m writing this at 3:30 in the afternoon—prime time for a serious slump in energy. Looking for new ways to perk up, I reached for the latest offering from Elaine Petrone, one of my favorite go-to sources for ingenious yet simple ways to get in touch with your breath, reduce stress, and help your body feel its best.
A former professional dancer, Petrone suffered a debilitating injury that conventional medicine couldn’t fix—eventually, her right leg shrank to half its original size and doctors told her she’d walk with a limp for the rest of her life. She began studying rehabilitative movement with every teacher she could find, and ultimately came to the conclusion that what’s generally at the root of chronic pain is over-tight, over-worked muscles that pull the body out of alignment. She and her books are excellent sources of simple yet profound ways to release that tension you are likely not even aware that you’re holding, deepen the breath, and set the stage for energy to circulate unimpeded.
The title of this latest book is The Portable Miracle Ball Method, and as its name suggests, many of the exercises in it use a grapefruit-sized rubber ball (that comes packaged with the mini-sized book and a small bag to carry them both in—making the whole kit easy to toss in a suitcase and keep you ache-free on the road). I’ve used the ball as she suggests, and often give myself back massages by lying on the floor with two tennis balls on either side of my spine. But today the exercise that caught my eye doesn’t require any props except your own two hands. Called Tapping the Breastbone, this exercise is subtly energizing, de-stressing, and helps you feel more supported by coaxing your spine in to a more erect posture. (And it’s yet another way to access the Sea of Tranquility acupressure point, which I’ve written about before.) Here’s how to do it:
Tapping the Breastbone
- Sit up tall in your chair or cross-legged on the floor.
- Lightly cup your fingers and let your wrists be loose.
- Tap the fingertips of both hands up and down your breastbone—which runs horizontally directly between your boobs and is approximately six inches long from bottom to top.
- As you tap, notice the subtle changes you feel in your body. Pause after 30 seconds or so and focus on detecting any effects.
- Alternate between tapping and noticing for 2 to 3 minutes.
- If a co-worker sees you and asks what you’re doing, give him or her your best Tarzan imitation, a la Carol Burnett (it’s four and a half minutes in, but it’s worth the wait if you’ve got the time).
While I was tapping, I noticed that I took a big deep breath after a few seconds. When I was done, my chest felt a lot more open, and I felt that my weight had shifted so that my upper back was doing more to support the weight of my shoulders, neck and head (instead of having all that mass slump forward toward my keyboard, requiring my neck to carry most of the load). I also felt like the light in the room was a little brighter. Pretty powerful stuff for something free, fast, and easy!
What are your natural ways to wake up?
What do you do when the afternoon ughs hit? Share your tips by leaving a comment, and if I publish yours in the next Vegimental, I’ll send you your very own The Portable Miracle Ball Method.
Congrats to Twainhart Hill!
She wrote in her with her winter-reading recommendation, and won a copy of Pleasure Healing: Mindful Practices & Sacred Spa Rituals for Self-Nurturing by Mary Beth Janssen for doing so. Here’s her suggestion:
“My cozy reading this winter was a book called ‘Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.’ It is a real story about a stray cat that is heart-warming and creates a lot of good fuzzy feelings. It has kept a smile on my face for some time.”
Take care and keep breathing,