DEVELOP AWARENESS AND LUNG CAPACITY WITH MINDFUL BREATHING TECHNIQUES
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It's March 2022! WOW! It is my pleasure to share mindful moments every Tuesday in March. Together we start our week connected, in health. I thank Michelle Butt, Founder of Facial Intelligence, who inspired the series, saying “..with all of her sage and royal wisdom, that she has to share.”
For this month, I’d like to share tools and techniques to calm the body and the mind. I start with the more obvious, the densest parts of us, the body. Then, over the month, we’ll slowly move to more subtle parts - mind, intellect, memory, ego and self. The aim is to absorb these tools during this month of March, and we have them for the rest of our lives.
March is a month that has a lot of overwhelming beginnings and endings. All basketball friends know March Madness is frenzied! In the north, winter starts to turn to spring. Schools have breaks. And COVID has added many more challenges.
So let’s counter that, which may be a little overwhelming for some with March Mindfulness. When we get overwhelmed, we get very stressed. Too much stress, negative or positive stress, interferes with your mind, mood and productivity.
Any stress is saying to you, “you may be in danger.” Stress is part of the autonomic nervous system.
If a tiger chases us, stress makes our attention, energy, and power go to our limbs to get us out of the way for this one escape. But, if situations make us believe tigers are everywhere, our stress becomes chronic. That hype in our nervous system depletes our energy, and our minds can get confused.
Stress depletes our resources, and we can get grumpy and angry and not make the best decisions. Have you noticed? It's important to handle stress, which impacts our nervous system.
Stress activates the autonomic nervous system. It happens automatically; you don’t control that. Things like temperature, heartbeat, and fight or flight or freeze response are part of this autonomic nervous system.
Breath is part of this system too. Usually, we don't make a decision to breathe. However, we can use our breath in fantastic ways when we do.
Have you noted how breath and emotions are related to each other?
Imagine your dear friend showing up at your house with a cake you love. Surprise! What are you going to do? For a moment, your breath will get caught, probably in an in breath.
What about if you're angry, depressed, or afraid? Have you noticed your breath will change?
Usually, an emotion affects our breath in a specific way. Researchers in Europe had people watch drama, comedy, and thriller movies and recorded their breath. Then they took the breath patterns and played them to other people. The people who heard the recordings started experiencing the emotions that were associated with the pattern of breath.
Instead of your emotions affecting your breath, you can change your emotions by changing the way you breathe.
Here are three breaths we can do to develop awareness and lung capacity.
First, Where is your mind right now?
Are you thinking things like, “I have another 10 minutes or 15 minutes for this, and then I have to go to work, or make a call, or feed the cat or the kids, or go back to bed?”
Wherever your mind does, it's fine. Just observe and relax.
Full Yogic Breath
Put one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. Take a breath in. And just be aware which hand is ,and in which direction. Are both moving? Breathing in, is the belly going in or out?
Now, let’s have the belly go out when we breathe in. Breathe in. Push the belly out. Breathing out, bring it back, as if sucking the belly towards the spine. Breathing in, pushing the belly out and breathing out, bring it back to the spine.
Now, add your chest. Breathing in, the belly goes, out and then the chest expands. Breathing out, the belly comes, in and the chest relaxes. Feel these like the waves coming in and going out. Breath in and out, like the waves of the ocean coming in and out. This is called a full yogic breath.
When we slow down and control our breathing, we inhale more oxygen and more life force energy. Slow breathing and holding the breath give time for the oxygen to circulate through the blood and through the organs.
Pretend you have a straw and a glass of water, and do what a child would do. Maybe they'll drink a little bit. They'll also blow bubbles, right? So, let’s do that.
The straw breath is known to reduce blood pressure, so be careful and do it only 1-3 times. If you feel weak or lightheaded, stop.
Take a breath in through the nose, a gentle breath. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth while pursuing your lips as if you're blowing out through a straw into a glass of water to make bubbles. Do this for 5 or 6 breaths. You can close your eyes if you're comfortable.
Now take a breath in. Slow the breath to make it a little long. Then, keep breathing, concentrating on the breath in. The breath out will happen automatically. Continue breathing like this for 5 or 6 breaths and then gently return to normal breathing.
Now, how are you feeling? What changed?
Do you feel softer?
How's the mind calmer?
Do you feel so light, yes?
Called Bhastrika in Sanskrit, Bellow Breath is a practice that is recognized in western medicine, a variation of it often given to people after operations to expand the heart and the ribcage.
The most simple process everybody should be able to do, is to start with a gentle action. Breathing in, we open or expand the chest. Breathing out, we contract it. If you have any pain, if you have any discomfort, stop this process. You know your body. Just do what you can.
Many people ask, “Do I breathe through my nose or my mouth”?
The nose is the organ designed for regular breathing. It has a filtration system, and connects to the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Mouth breathing is for specific effects and very helpful when our nose is blocked.
Homework: Start the day with the intention to be aware of your breathing patterns. You can do the straw breath, the full yogic breath, and the simple version of the bellows.
Enjoy these simple breaths to increase your awareness, your lung capacity; observe the impact on your mind and mood.
I’d love to hear how these are working for you. You can contact me at email@example.com
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