We are always breathing but how often do we really pay attention?
One of the simplest ways to de stress and clear the mind is to connect to the breath. By driving the attention towards the breath we can bring ourselves into the present moment. It allows us to connect with our parasympathetic nervouse system - the part of our involuntary nervous system which slows the heart rate and stimulates the digestions and glands. It works in contrast to our sympathetic nervouse system which is responsible for our fight or flight responses. When we are always living in fight or flight mode it is exhausting and can lead to adrenal fatigue. So by focusing on our breath we can slow the heart rate, connect to the calming parasympathetic nervous system and clear the mind.
The following exercises I have often found beneficial in times of stress or anxiety.Here is how they are done but before starting:
Find Your Comfortable Seat
Whether you are sitting on a chair or cross legged on the floor in Sukasana (Easy Cross Legged Position) find a steady comfortable position. Characteristics of a comfortable-enough seat are:
Centre yourself over your sit bones so that your spine is neither too far back or too far forwards.
Allow the shoulder blades to melt down the back.
Place the hands to rest on the thighs with the palms facing up if you feel like you need a bit more energy or down if you feel like you need to ground yourself.
Take your attention to the breath watching it come and go in its natural rhythm before beginning the following three exercises.
Golden Thread Breath
A lovely exercise from Uma Dinsmore-Tuli.
In your comfortable seated position close your eyes and allow the awareness to turn inwards.
Allow your lips to part slightly so there is a very narrow gap between the lips and teeth.
Inhale through the nose and exhale through the narrow gap between the lips and teeth. Notice the slight sound created by the exhalation passing through the lips.
Imagine a golden thread extending from the lips on the exhale until it disapears into the distance and allow your mental attentions to follow into the distance. Imagine any worries or troubles leaving the body on the exhale and disapearing into the distance.
Repeat at least five times and notice any sensations or calming
affects of this breath practice.
Ujjayi meaning Victorious Breath is also known as "Ocean Waves" due to the sound created by the narrowing of the glottis in the throat. It is a great calming breathbut also an invigorating breath.
To find the sound and the narrowing of the glottis in the throat imagine fogging up a mirror on the exhale making a breathy sighing sound from the back of the throat out through the mouth.
When you can hear and feel the sound at the back of the throat close the mouth halfway through an exhale and continue the exhale out through the nose whilst maintaining the sound at the back of the throat.
Once you have found the oceanic quality to the breath close the eyes and continue the ujjayai breathing for at least 10 rounds with conscious awareness to each inhale and each exhale.
Extended Exhalation Breathing
This is great to do if you find that the mindis very busy.
Close the eyes and observe the natural rhythm of the breath.
Begin by taking an inhale for a count of four in your head.
Exhale for a count of six.
Repeat for a few rounds.
After practice you can increase the breath counts to six and eight.
I love to get on my mat and breath and after regular practice you will start to feel the benefits.