The breath. It’s something we likely don’t give much thought to. It happens automatically within our bodies through our autonomic nervous system. It speeds up when our sympathetic nervous system is triggered, this is also referred to as “fight or flight” and it slows down when our parasympathetic nervous system takes over, also known as “rest and digest”. All too often these days we are stuck in sympathetic mode and this can be very detrimental to our health.
Fortunately, we are also able to consciously control our breath. This allows us to purposefully return our bodies to parasympathetic mode. This is when our bodies are able to heal themselves. I’m going to share some simple techniques that you can use to calm your mind and bring yourself into a state of healing.
Practicing these techniques is lovely in the morning upon waking, it is a great way to set the tone for your day; but can also be used anytime you are feeling stressed and frazzled. Before you begin, find a nice quiet space where you will not be disturbed. You can sit on the floor in any comfortable position, cross-legged or sitting on your heels. If this is not comfortable for you, sitting in a chair is fine too. You can even do this in the car if you need to. Eyes open of course. Try to sit with a tall spine and relaxed shoulders and gently close your eyes. Set an alarm so you are not preoccupied with time. If you are new to this kind of practice, start with 5 minutes on the clock and slowly increase to 10 minutes and then 15. If you have more time, please take it, but 15 minutes is a good goal to work up to. Surely we can all spare 15 minutes in our day for this effective self-care technique.
A simple technique for beginners is the 5-5-5-5 method. Inhaling deeply into your belly and then into your chest to a slow count of 5, holding the breath for a count of 5, exhaling to a count of 5 and sitting with empty lungs for a count of 5 and repeat. When you begin to get comfortable with this technique you may want to explore a bit more. You can then try a 4-8-4-4 technique. Slowly increasing to 4-16-8-4 and then to 5-20-10-5 and 6-24-12-6, etc. Do you see the pattern in the ratio?
These techniques should leave you feeling centered, grounded and peaceful. Practicing daily is best, but do what you can and do what feels good for you and remember to be gentle with yourself. If you miss a day, resume the practice the following morning.