There are over 40 different ways to breathe. Ancient Chinese Proverb
Who ever thought that breathing could be so complicated? But I have students tell me all the time they never realized they were adding to their own stress, simply by the way they were breathing. Many of us were taught to keep a small belly so breathe into our chests (not our bellies). What we didn’t know was that chest breathing actually increases your stress. It stimulates the solar plexus nerve bundle, which among other things, increases your breathing and your pulse…stimulating the stress response. Diaphragmatic breathing is when you breathe as if into your belly (as you inhale, your stomach expands). This is the relaxed breathing that we do when we are sleeping. So when you are stressed, practicing belly breathing. You will be mimicking the very relaxed breathing of sleep and fooling your body into thinking it is relaxed. Pretty cool!!!
So, to practice: Sit or lie comfortably, close your eyes and rest your hands on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Breathe in through your nose (if you can), feeling your abdomen expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. Continue. Notice the cooling of your nostrils as you breathe in and your abdomen expands. Notice the slight pause in your breath before you exhale. Notice the warming of your nostrils as you exhale and as your abdomen contracts. Notice again, a very slight pause before you take your next breath. Continue. Just notice. Be aware. Wonder at the mystery and miracle of it…that as you breathe in, air brings life-giving oxygen into every cell of your body. Imagine that happening with each breath.
Meditation uses this art of diaphragmatic breathing to help quiet you down and allow your brain to get true rest. There are a multitude of different types of mediation and you need to find the one that works for you. Many of us when we first start meditating have difficulty staying focused and our minds wander.
Some helpful hints:
- Have a notebook and pen/pencil handy and jot down notes if you need to.
- Eventually, you can try telling yourself, it Its really important you’ll remember it, or an even better one when you’re done meditating (if you can’t convince yourself of this…write it down)
- Remind yourself that the research demonstrates that right and left brain functions are integrated better allowing us to be more effective, more creative and more productive. Every minute of meditation will pay off.
- Try other types of meditation: tai chi is a moving meditation, or guided imagery meditations (there are some on you tube and apps for Iphones).
- Be gentle with yourself. It will take time for it not to feel awkward. For your brain and body to learn how to quiet down. There will also be times even after you master the technique when your brain may not cooperate.
And after those 40 different ways they’ve known since ancient times…there’s also elaine’s technique: breathing up and breathing down….yup yup yup….you heard it here… the one the only Elaine’s version.
Living Joyously Tip for the Day: