Excerpt from Chapter 8 of B Sharp!
5-Minute Power Break
Combining music, deep breathing, relaxation, and other activities can help bring us into a powerful alpha state quickly, as part of a whole brain-body healthy response. Don’t underestimate the power of this five-minute routine. It’s an intense musical meditation. I am continually amazed at the physical, biochemical, and mental-emotional benefits it unlocks.
Other researchers have shown that five minutes of deep breathing can significantly improve the brain’s cognition (mental activities associated with thinking, learning, and memory), and behavior (our actions and reactions). In addition, the breathing cycle corresponds to that of the heart’s; the results benefit the lungs, heart, and blood vessels. Muscle activity increases, too, including the abdominals and various others positively effecting posture, movement, and energy. Overall, this short simple session can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve breathing, speaking, and singing, reduce anxiety and depression, control pain, balance blood sugar, and improve sleep. Through decreased oxidative stress and systemic inflammation, it can significantly and positively affect aging.
The benefits of the 5-Minute Power break are similar to those obtained over time using both aerobic exercise training and deep breathing meditation.
We don’t always have time to exercise, take a class, or meditate for long periods, but a five-minute break is possible for virtually everyone. It combines music with movement in a unique holistic way and one of my most potent self-care remedies.
Here’s how to perform the 5-Minute Power Break:
- Sit, recline, or lie down and relax.
- Keep eyes closed and relaxed.
- Position your hands or crossed arms at rest on your upper abdomen.
- Using your diaphragm and abdominal muscles, breathe slowly, easily, and deeply:
- Inhale (preferably through the nose) for about 5-10 seconds with easy pushing out and relaxing of the belly. During the last 1-2 seconds of inhalation, add mild chest expansion — enough to feel contraction of the muscles in the upper chest, front shoulders, and neck. (If you feel the need to yawn, let it happen.)
- Exhale (preferably through the mouth) about 5-10 seconds. This involves contracting the abdominal muscles—pulling them inward like they’re trying to reach the lower spine. During the last 1-2 seconds, contract the pelvic floor muscles (like a Kegel exercise).
5. Listen to enjoyable music for about five minutes (headphones or earbuds are best).
Perform this activity daily, or more often if desired. Listening to one song or two shorter ones is better than using a timer. You can exceed five minutes if desired. When the music is less than five minutes, use the remaining time to enjoy the relaxed silent afterglow. The best songs are those with great alpha-wave potential like the oldie “Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon and Garfunkel) at 4:56, or some surprises: Lisa Hannigan’s “I Don’t Know” (4:56), my shorter “Rosemary,” or in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, the “Witches’ Sabbath” (5:05).