Just Breathe

Many people report that when they are upset, worried, scared, anxious etc they hold their breath. This is not something we do consciously but we often become aware of it after a little while. What we are less aware of is when we do it without realising it. We very often breathe too shallowly anyway and again most people aren’t aware of doing it. So a good practice to take up is to do some deep breathing every day.

Pick something that you will remember easily such as checking your breathing every time you go to the bathroom or answer the phone. Then just spend a minute or two focusing on your breathing. Breathing in and out slowly and deeply through your nose. Whenever you notice your breathing throughout your day, choose to breathe slowly and deeply.

Make it a habit to check your breath regularly throughout your day. This is an easy way to reduce stress and anxiety and increase our energy levels.

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Simply Breathe to Relieve Stress

One of the first things that happens when we are stressed is that we start breathing very shallowly, only using the top of our lungs. We often don’t breathe deep enough in general and when we get stressed this becomes even worse. You can check how you are breathing by simply placing one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Either lay down, sit or stand comfortably as you do this. Notice whether your chest hand or your stomach hand is rising as you breathe normally. To breathe effectively your stomach area should rise more than your chest as your diaphragm expands.

To counter stress one of the simplest things you can do is to breathe! There are several different breathing exercises you can do and here is one of the simplest and most effective.

Firstly sit in a comfortable position and place your hands in your lap.  You will be breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth in this exercise.  Place the tip of your tongue on the soft tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there during this exercise.

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose to the count of 4
  • Hold your breath for a count of 7
  • Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. When you exhale, make a soft “whoosh” sound
  • This is 1 round. Repeat again 3 times, making a total of 4 rounds

The important thing is the ratio of 4:7:8. The out breath is twice as long as the in breath.  You can make the breaths shorter, ensuring you stick to the ratio.  Ensure you only do 4 breaths each time you practice this exercise initially. With time you can increase it to 8 breaths.

4-7-8 Breathing Exercise

This exercise has a natural calming and tranquilizing effect on the body. Use it whenever you feel stressed, feel tension in your body, before you react to a situation and in bed to help you go to sleep. It is a quick and effective exercise to do and can be done anywhere.

“Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”
Andrew Weil, M.D

Repeat this exercise at least twice a day and whenever you feel you need it.

Let me know how this exercise helps you.
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Making Time For Meditation

I used to meditate every day. Then I kind of “fell off the wagon” and never really got back on properly. I would do it again sporadically. Sometimes I’d get into a good groove and do it for months, other times I’d not do it for months.

I recently changed that though. I started again and I noticed how easy it was! I just slid right into my groove – like never before. No struggling to “get into the zone”.

I had two amazing meditations recently, that I want to share.

Sense Garden

I stood before a wooden gate, so I turned the handle and went through it. I found myself in a beautiful garden. It seemed to simulate all of my senses. As I walked through the garden, I could feel the sunshine on my skin. There was a beautiful scent in the air as I walked in further. There was a herb garden with rosemary, basil, coriander and mint. Then there were climbing plants with wonderful scents like honeysuckle and clematis.

My eyes were treated to an amazing array of flowers of all colours, like sunflowers, gerberas, red hot pokers and irises. There were also lots of different coloured shrubs, bushes and ferns. As I walked along a path, I realised that the path was made of gravel and I could hear it crunching under my feet. I came upon a water feature with a mini waterfall and I stood listening to the calming sound of running water. The energy around the waterfall felt incredible. As I moved on, I heard birds and bees and noticed a wind chime, gently chiming in the light breeze. I found myself wanting to sit down and noticed a wooden seat. The texture of the seat was smooth and I felt comforted as I sat there. I also noticed other textures up ahead, where there was a stone statue. I ran my hands over the curves and straight lines and felt all the different textures. This contrasted with a metal sculpture which was cold and silky smooth to touch. 

I continued to walk ahead and came across a hammock. I picked a clementine from a nearby tree and laid myself down on the hammock. The clementine was sweet and juicy and smelt really zesty. My body felt relaxed and comfortable as I swayed gently in the breeze.  At the end of my meditation, I felt really relaxed and like I had been treated to a sense treat. 

Native American Sweat lodge

This meditation immediately started with me walking towards a sweat lodge. I walked through a path through some trees, where wind chimes were hanging. We were cleansed with sage outside the sweat lodge, then we entered one by one and sat cross-legged in a circle. The medicine man began in leading our prayers and offered up chants. We each passed around the peace pipe before the stones were brought in and the water poured on. I could feel the heat rise in my body as the steam filled up the lodge. During the ceremony, 4 animal spirits came to me. They were the eagle, the beaver, the wolf and the turtle.

After the ceremony I walked up a mountain, with several other people. At the top of the mountain was a medicine wheel. The medicine man again offered prayers and we all joined him in chanting. After this ceremony, I again saw the great eagle, though this time he was soaring on the thermals above the mountain. I felt very light and clear after this meditation.

These meditations both just “came” to me. I did not (consciously anyway) intend to have these experiences. There are many ways of meditating and some days nothing spectacular happens – it’s just me quieting my mind chatter, watching my breath, come and go. I feel especially blessed when I experience meditations like these two and equally satisfied to just “be”.

I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences.