Coming Home with the Breath
As the holidays are now upon us and another year is coming to an end, life can seem hectic. Social activities and family obligations fill our schedules, Christmas shopping may be an expectation, end of the year deadlines loom over us, the end of the year makes us reflect on things that happened in the past and changes we’d like to make in the next upcoming year, the holidays have us potentially focused on others in an intentionally positive way, however, possibility leading to lack of self care. The true nature of the winter season is to draw inwards, slow down, and rest. All the previously mentioned human created conditions go against the natural order of our instincts. No wonder we may feel stressed, exhausted, and a bit disconnected or lost from our true selves.
In a recent yoga class I was reminded that no matter how ungrounded we may feel we can always come home in an instant……with our breath. Our breath is always with us. Our breath is the one thing we constantly have access to and is a calming tool that we can rely on no matter where we are, be it in our car, on our couch, at our desk, in a meeting, or a social gathering.
The reality is that the majority of humans are not breathing correctly, therefore not allowing this essential act of nature to provide physical and mental healing benefits.
The most common error is not taking full inhales and exhales that rid the body of toxins, allow fresh oxygen to flood into the body, and stimulate the nervous system to relax. So how does one breathe to achieve maximum healing benefits? Please don’t become intimidated by the practice of healthy breathing! Here are a few tips that beginners can focus on in order to breathe correctly.
Begin each practice with bringing awareness to your natural breathing pattern and the feel of your body in contact with the ground.
1) Belly breathing- the focus is on the movement of the belly and taking complete breaths
In a comfortable seated or lying position place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
Take a few moments to tune into to how you are breathing
Take a deep inhale through your nose and feel your belly rise and expand while your chest remains still.
Next slowly and fully exhale through your mouth as your belly falls.
Many people tend to take shallow breaths from the chest. This actually sends signals to the nervous system to enter fight or flight mode, promoting anxiety.
2) Sama Vritti: Equal Breathing- pranayama controlled breathing
Continuing with the belly breathing add controlled counts to the practice
Inhale for a count of four
Hold for a count of four
Exhale for a count of four
Hold four a count of four
To help you feel even more grounded, add a little imaginary. As you inhale imagine yourself drawing energy from the earth and letting it flood your body from your toes to the crown of your head with all that is good. As you exhale imagine letting go of all that does not serve you.
Everyone is at a different level in their breathing experiences and lung capacities. Experiment with what amount of time practicing breath work is doable for you and slowly increase in small increments overtime.
Enjoy and Find Yourself at Home!!!
Courtney Dunn LPC, Yoga Therapist