When it comes to committing to yourself and your well-being, there are a myriad of hurdles that can get in your way. Some of them may be self-imposed, but more often than not, it just comes with the territory of the busy lives we lead. Work, family, bills, hobbies, sleep — they are all necessary parts, and it can be hard to figure out how to fit it all in. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that over-committing to something is a surefire way to fail. If I tell myself to just show up for a minimum of time, I am more likely to do it, and also, stick around for longer than I had originally planned. Hence, the 3-Minute Commitment!
Here’s how it works. Pick something you know you can do for 3 minutes a day, and commit to it. Like really commit to it. No excuses. If at the end of the day, you still haven’t done it, you have to do it before you fall asleep. It’s only THREE-MINUTES! What you choose to do is entirely up to you, but here are a few of my favorite power-packed 3-Minute practices that I try to sneak in a few times a day.
- Breath of Fire – this comes from my training in Kundalini Yoga. It’s similar to Kapalbhati Pranayam and Bellows Breath, but it gets taught differently depending upon who you learn from. The way that I do it is to simply focus on a rapid even breath where the inhale and the exhale are equal. If you’re breathing yogically, your belly will extend slightly on the inhale and push in towards the spine on the exhale. You don’t have to force this, but in time, see if you can adjust the movement of your navel if you find it’s going in the opposite direction. Sit comfortably, spine straight, set your timer for 3-Minutes and then start to breath. If your navel passages are clear, do the breath through the nostrils, both the inhale and exhale. If for some reason you are stuffed up, then you can breath in and out through your mouth. At the end of three minutes, take a nice deep inhale. Hold it for as long as it’s comfortable and then exhale and let your breath return to its natural rhythm.
- Spinal Flexes – Sometimes referred to as Cat Cow if you’re doing this on the floor, but it can be done sitting up seated on the floor or in a chair. With this you are flexing the spine to get the energy flowing throughout your body. If you’re doing this in Cat Cow position, the knees and hands will be on the ground, knees under hips and hands under the shoulders. If you’re seated, you want to start with a nice straight back. In any of the positions you will inhale pushing the chest forward and pulling the shoulders back, and then exhaling you pull the shoulders forward and flex the spine backwards. Aligning your breath with the movement and moving at whatever pace feels right for you–note this may vary depending upon the day or time of day–set your timer again for 3-Minutes and enjoy. At the end of the 3-Minutes, take a nice deep inhale with a flat back/straight spine and then exhale releasing. You can finish with a few stretches just tuning in to how your body wants to be moved.
- Shoulder Shrugs – This is for all of you keyboard warriors, well, really anyone who’s holding on to stress or tension in their bodies, most likely the shoulders and upper back. For this, you will inhale and lift/gently squeeze the shoulders up towards your ears and then let them fall back down with your exhale. If you have any shoulder injuries you can release the shoulders with more control on the exhale rather than letting them fall with gravity. As with anything, listen to the unique needs of your own body and where it’s at in the moment. At the end of the 3-Minutes, take a nice deep inhale and really squeeze your shoulders upwards, tightening the muscles in your body as much as you can and then let it all go, relaxing with your exhale. Whew, you might want to shake a little bit after this one!
- One-Minute Breaths – This one is something you may need to work up to or modify however it feels best for you–to give you the experience of a long deep breath–but the one-minute gives you a good goal to reach for. The breath consists of three parts; an inhale, a holding of the breath and an exhale, each part lasting for 20 seconds each to complete the full cycle in one minute. This is a very advanced breath, so do not stress about not being able to do it. Adjust the timing however you need to in order to slow the breath down. Maintain an equal 1:1:1 ratio for each segment of the breath, but perhaps start with 5 to 10 seconds for each breath segment and then build up over time. The idea is to calm the nervous system by slowing down the breath so if you start to feel panicked then just dial it back some by reducing the time for each segment. Sit or lay comfortably, set your timer for 3-Minutes and at the end, finish with one last deep inhale and exhale.
- Cold Shower/Rinse – I’ve saved the best for last! The cold shower, or cold rinse as I do it, can feel intimidating especially during the cold months, but the idea is to push yourself just slightly into the discomfort to build your resilience and cultivate that inner heat/life force energy. There are many different ways to do this, but here’s how I do it. After taking my normal shower, I step back a bit from the water and turn it to cold. Sometimes it’s a full on ice cold temperature whereas other days it might be more cool. I begin to do a deep breathing practice getting the energy flowing in my body and slowly start to immerse myself in the water, usually starting with one arm, moving along the back, getting underneath my armpits, splashing or immersing my face and then just feeling where my body is open to the cold. I usually find that despite the chill, my body actually wants the experience so I just move through the cold water intuitively and continue to breath until I feel done. For this one you don’t need to set a timer, nor do you need to worry about doing it for a full 3-Minutes. Just start wherever it feels comfortable and go with the flow.
Now everyone is going to have a different way of incorporating these, or other practices, into their day. I encourage you to listen to what feels right for you but will share what works for me if you’re looking for a starting place. Mornings I do Breath of Fire and Spinal Flexes. Cold Rinse happens whenever I shower and feels best to me in the morning but can be done whenever. Midday is perfect for Shoulder Shrugs, maybe after lunch, mid-afternoon or at the end of the work day before you transition into your evening schedule. Breath of Fire is also a nice pick-me-up in the afternoon right when you’re reaching for that cup of coffee or afternoon snack. One-Minute Breaths or long deep breathing can be a great way to wind down the day before heading off to sleep, but I know this can also be super helpful at any point in the day you’re looking for something to center and balance you.
My suggestion is to commit to doing at least one 3-Minute practice a day. You may find that you are doing several throughout the day, which is great, but if you are at least committed to just one, you are likely to embed it into your daily routine which is the best way to change a habit and never forget that taking care of yourself is a priority, one that’s vital to keep.
Note: As with any physical exercise, it’s wise to consult with a doctor if you have any concerns about how it might be affecting your personal health.