Thursday, June 23, 2011
I have enjoyed sharing with all of you this Breathing Project at "Peace and Health, and have heard from a number of you about being more aware of the importance of breathing consciously. To review, we have cultivated Awareness, Raising Our Energy, Smoothing Out the Kinks, and now we'll Balance Our Halves.
Balance in Mind and Body
We're now at Step 4, where we will bring the two halves of ourselves into balance and harmony. Each of us has duality, the good and bad selves, the happy and sad selves, the patient and stressed selves. Today's breath is called Alternate Nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit, meaning to "purify the nadis" or energy passageways. Nadi means "little river"). It's a breath for clarity in mind, and balance in body.
You will find a number of excellent videos showing Alternate Nostril breathing on YouTube.
How To Do This Breath
Sit in a comfortable upright position with your spine tall and yet relaxed, with eyes gently closed. You will use the right hand to close each nostril as follows: Close the left nostril with the ring and pinky fingers of your right hand and breath in through your right nostril. Close your right nostril with the thumb of your right hand and exhale through your left nostril. Inhale through your left nostril. Close your left nostril with the ring and pinky fingers again and exhale through your right nostril. You toggle back and forth from nostril to nostril, in and out. Your breaths can be long and smooth, breathing fully in and out.
If you want to go further, here is an introduction to Kundalini yoga. Breathing in through the right nostril, which is the warm sun or masculine channel, imagine the breath coming up from the base of the spine on the right side to the top of your head. Exhale down the left side, which is the feminine or cooling moon side, of the spine back to the base of the spine. Inhaling and exhaling, trace your breath up and down the spine on either side, activating the warmth of the sun on the right and the coolness of the moon on the left. In Kundalini yoga, at the base of the spine is a coiled serpent who is awakened and enervates your "little rivers" of energy. As you do this breathing pattern, your breathing eventually synthesizes from at first tracing up and down each side of the spine to finally flowing up and down the center of the spine. This is the harmony you will enjoy as you spend time in the Alternate Nostril breathing.
As always, I enjoy hearing of your experiences trying these breathing patterns. This one is very old, and effective. Don't forget to "drop by" for a FREE GIFT from the Peace and Health Cafe!
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
By now, you are taking luxuriously deep breaths often, right? Step 1 of the Breathing Project focused on Awareness, and Step 2 on Raising Your Energy. In Step 3, we'll focus on using the breath to Smooth Out the Kinks. In Step 4, to come, we will send our breath, intentions, and energy into the world.
Smoothing Out the Kinks like Gentle Waves
Think of a gentle wave washing over you, and that is how we will think about this soothing breathing pattern. You might wish to close your eyes for this breath (after reading, of course!). Breathe in through your nose imagining the breath coming up all the way from your toes to the top of your head. Then when exhaling through your nose, feel a gentle wave of water wash down through and over your body all the way past your face, your shoulders, chest, arms, belly, legs, all the way back down to your toes. As if you are being coated in warm water or light or a breeze, trickling down your inner body. (Visualize cool water or refreshing breeze if it's hot out and that seems more soothing). Imagine releasing all of the stress or tension your body has been holding onto. Feel your face, jaw, shoulders, all of your body relaxing as you wash the breath over you. Breathe in and out this way as long as you'd like.
Try this breathing pattern using "ujjayi" breathing. Ujjayi is Sanskrit for "victory breath" and is a standard yoga pranayama breath. You close your inner throat muscles half way, a half snore, so that your breath is audible. Your breath takes on an ocean-like sound. This builds heat in the body, raising your energy level and at the same time creating balance. Give your inhalation and exhalation the same volume level with ujjayi breathing.
After several breaths using the ujjayi breathing, go back to your normal breathing and see how you have smoothed out the kinks. You can open your eyes and go back to your day feeling refreshed and energized, having visited the shore of your deep and true inner sanctuary.
As always, stay in touch and tell me how you feel after Smoothing Out Your Kinks!
"Stop by" the Peace and Health Cafe for a cool herbal tea and chat:
Sunday, June 5, 2011
We started the "Breathing Project" earlier this week with Awareness: Did you notice whether you were not breathing (unconsciously holding your breath) or actually breathing more often in a way that brings relief? This new awareness is important, so congratulate yourself! But here is extra credit: The point of the awareness is to bring yourself into the experience of the present moment, NOW, where life is lived.
Breathing Project Step 2 is about using your breath to Raise Your Energy, to raise your "vibrational level" as they say. Conscious breathing helps you exist in tune not only with yourself, but with the positive/higher vibration of the universe. Let's face it: You are most alive when breathing fully than when breathing weakly.
This is a two-part exercise. First, I want to introduce you to a breath that comes from the Kundalini tradition of yoga. My hatha yoga teacher calls this the "Hiss Breath." Think of a snake (and if you explore more about Kundalini, you will discover the meaning behind the snake coiled at the base of the spine that awakens the chakra centers up towards the crown of the head). Take a deep, full breath in through the nose and then exhale while hissing, a long, strong hiss until you have fully exhaled. Now, here the key is to customize the breath for how you are feeling right now: If you are feeling wound-up, stressed, hyper and overly stimulated, then you want your hiss to be quiet, slow, calm. If you are melancholic, tired, exhausted and can't quite get going, then give your hiss breath all you've got, hissing strongly and with gusto. You can use this breath to wake you up or calm you down.
Whole Body Breath
Stand for this second part, as you will engage the whole body for this breath. Stretch up and back slightly while taking a big breath in, and then drop forward with slightly bent knees, sweeping your hands near the floor and behind your legs as you breath a strong breath out. Breathe in again as you sweep back up and back, and breathe out as you drop forward. Up and down this way. Always breathe in through the nose, but you can breathe out through your mouth if it is more comfortable. Or, you can swing your arms from side to side at shoulder height so you breathe in to the right letting right arm extend a bit behind you and left hand touches your heart, then swinging to the left so your left arm is extended and right hand touches your heart as you breathe out. So you are twisting from side to side gently, letting your head go with your arms. Allow your hands and fingers to fully stretch from side to side, too, and it is a great chest opener.
Here is a wonderful sequence that demonstrates the sideways breathing above, from Yoga Journal's Home Practice pages (immediately after opening seated position).
These breathing patterns (and there are many out there) bring needed oxygen into your body. It awakens you, allowing your energy and vibration to rise and expand. You are fresher, more alert, and have nice endorphins and fresh oxygen to help you feel a bit happier as you go out into the world in a healthy and positive way, attracting more positive energy and opportunities!
As always, write and let me know what you are experiencing.
Here is a closing quote, by T.S. Eliot:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Welcome friends! Today's blog entry focuses on the ever-important topic of breathing. Yes, we all need to breathe, but we have the amazing ability to breathe in ways that are beneficial more than we may realize.
This Blog Has Expanded
Before we take this deep breath into breathing, I wanted to officially announce the opening of the Peace and Health Cafe, www.peaceandhealthcafe.com! It's your online source for advice and products to help you navigate today's challenging world. Check it out and keep in touch to let me know what you think.
The "Breathing Project" here at Peace and Health is a mini-series focused on the importance of breathing for inner peace and good health. As many of you know, the practice of Yoga is the melding of movement with the breath, and a great deal of the focus is on breathing: Deep breathing, rhythmic breathing, breathing into certain areas of the body, etc. Yoga brings to the front of your awareness this simple act of breathing.
Perhaps you discover that when you think about it, you're not breathing at all! At least for many seconds, holding it tight. When you realize, "Hey, I am not breathing am I?" your breathing is then a big relief as you take a nice deep inhalation. You feel your whole body sighing and feeling great. "Why don't I do this all the time?" you say to yourself. Well you can.
While working on my new site, Peace and Health Cafe.com, there were many moments when I was so hyper-focused on tasks that I found myself not breathing much. It can happen to all of us, being so distracted that we aren't grounded in our bodies.
So, in this mini-series called "Breathing Project," let's start with Awareness. Become aware that you are breathing. If you can go a step further and really feel what it's like to breathe in and out, perhaps noticing things like your belly expanding and contracting, and the sense of relaxation or peace that occurs naturally, that would be fabulous.
On the "Exercise" page of the Peace and Health Cafe ("ADVICE"), you'll find further inspiration about breathing from Tony Samara.
As always, stay in touch with your thoughts, successes, and suggestions! Enjoy this quote from today's passage in my daily reader, "More Language of Letting Go:"
"Change often slips in when we're relaxed inside of ourselves."