On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest  how would you rate your energy right now?  Are you energetic, overwhelmed, tired, peaceful, ‘in the zone’?

You have a built in mechanism to relax, your breath.  As I mentioned in Blog #4  breathing consciously is the easiest route into relaxation because when we exhale deeply it elicits the Relaxation Response.  Conscious breathing is the built in mechanism for relaxation. Breathing is a natural process; in fact, we do not have to consciously breathe to stay alive, thankfully!  Breathing is automatic.  Variations in breath, accelerated or slowed down have an effect on our nervous system and how we feel.

As we inhale we activate, the heart actually moves up in our chest ever so slightly.  When we exhale, we deactivate; the heart moves down.  The exhale is designed to relax us, to bring about the hormonal changes that result in lowering our blood pressure, circulating “good” hormones,  relaxing our voluntary functions.  Any activity that invites us into our parasympathetic nervous system is beneficial.

The opposite, the sympathetic nervous system saved our ancestors lives when ‘fight or flight’ was needed, i.e. climbing up a tree to prevent being eaten or in a more recent scenario lifting a car off of a trapped child.  Adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones are circulated to increase our speed and/or strength.  Have you ever noticed that after a stressful circumstance you are very tired?  These hormone levels drop and you are fatigued.  Have you ever noticed that when you are under stress you are not hungry, don’t need to use the bathroom.  Once you relax, these “functions” kick in, you become aware of them.

Stress can be considered an ‘out of body’ experience.  What is chasing you is your thoughts, your expectations and __________?________; you fill in the blank.  So the breath, breathing consciously, is your route into relaxation.  Is your response, “BORING!”  How many of you have ever participated in yoga breathing techniques or Transformational Breathing techniques?  If so, you know that breathing is not boring.

There are many ways to relax; I want to focus on the 3 listed below:

Breath Awareness 4 Counts In –  4 Counts out

Always breathe in and out through your nostrils unless otherwise instructed.  Nostril breathing is how we were designed to breathe.  The air is purified and warmed before it enters our system.  Set a timer and do this simple breathing exercise for 5 minutes.  You can do this at your desk, on an airplane, in bed at night preparing to fall asleep. Notice how you feel during and after this simple breathing exercise.

Note, as you practice this exercise you can lengthen the exhalation by increments of 4, i.e. 4 in, pause 4, exhale 8, pause 4.  This process should always be comfortable, never straining to exhale or hold the breath.

Place you hands on your lap if you are sitting; sit up straight so that you can fully breathe.

Inhale slowly and evenly for 4 counts, pausing at the top of your breath.

Exhale slowly and evenly for 4 counts, pausing at the bottom of your breath.

As you continue, lengthen the pause to 4 counts.  4 in, 4 pause, 4 out, 4 pause.

Introspection in this sense means to visit your internal space.  How do you feel on the inside right now?  By sensing into your body, your internal space, you can recognize and release or savor.   We often only pay attention to this ‘space in the middle’ when  we are in pain or pleasure.  We are either awake and doing/thinking or asleep and tuned out.

Note:  Even if you are reading this at your desk, use these words as a map into your internal space, your sensory awareness.  Make these words your words:

Begin by paying attention to your breath.  Inhale slowly and exhale slowly.  Pay attention to every nuance of your breath.  Feel the air as it passes through your nostrils and throat, filling your lungs.  Feel your chest rising as you inhale.  As you exhale gently squeeze the breath out through your throat and nostrils.  Notice your chest lowering.  With each exhale, feel the weight of your body sinking into the surface that is holding you.  Feel each place your body is touching the chair, mat, floor as if you are being held, cradled.  Let go, release tension and fatigue.  As you inhale imagine you are a sponge filling with energy.  

Active Imagination involves imagining yourself in a situation of comfort.  Most of us are familiar with using our imagination to ‘pretend’ we are on a beach at our favorite resort, a spot in nature that we love, in short, a visual or kinesthetic remembering or imaging of a place of comfort and ease. Psychology has studied and proven that “mental rehearsal” whether for sports activities or for mental health works.  The early Russian athletes who combined 75% rehearsal with 25% practice performed the best.

I want to take you on a journey into your body, rather than to your favorite spot in nature.  Imagine yourself lying down for this exercise.  Picture or feel these words as if they are your own.

Bring your attention to your feet.  As you inhale, feel life force energy moving into your feet.  Feel this lightness circulating through your toes, the tops of your feet and your ankles.  Breathe into each and every healthy cell in this area.  Now, feel this lightness rising up through your ankles, into your calves, your knees and your thighs.  As you exhale, imagine that you are releasing any tension from your feet, calves, knees  and thighs.  Allow your pelvis to ‘melt’ into the surface that is holding it.  Feel as if everything waist down is gently being rocked downstream in such a way that all of your joints and muscles are being elongated, lengthened,  decompressed.  Breathe now as if you are breathing with your whole body, top to bottom inside out. 

Hopefully you will try any or all of these simple exercises and feel a positive result.

Whispers of the Breath Diva:

In this moment I can fully relax!

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