As a practicing yogi and as someone who attempts to stay mindful in all situations (note:attempts to) I’ve found that conscious awareness of breathing is the foundation of deepening ones calmness. It’s easy to get lost in life’s storm as we go from one busy day to the next, but if you can make a small change to bring a few moments of calm to yourself, you can become the eye of the storm, tranquil whilst the chaos continues around you.
Meditation and breath awareness helps you to see the storm from an objective point of view allowing you to act, not react to stressful situations. Action is thoughtful, reaction is thoughtless and so reactions which come out of stressful or angry situations may not elicit the response we’d ultimately want. They can cause more harm than good.
These breathing techniques are designed to help induce relaxation so that throughout your day you can be the calm eye of the storm, enriching your life by reducing stress and helping you to control your stress response and potentially unhealthy coping mechanisms which you may have learned; drinking alcohol, binge eating, smoking and recreational drug use all fall into that category and as a Nutritional Therapist, the use of food as a coping mechanism is a subject I often find myself working on with clients as part of our habit breaking exercises. How? More important than anything is proper breath mechanics. We all breathe but it’s not something we ever really think about. Switch your attention solely to your breathing and on your inhale your lower belly should push out. On the exhale it should come back in towards your spine. Remember to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth as this helps to induce the relaxation response.
While breathing your neck, upper chest and shoulders should stay relatively relaxed. How do they feel now? Are they tense? Tension here equates to stress, which is what we’re trying to alleviate, stay mindful of that through your day.
As you take your in breath imagine you are drawing in positivity and exhaling negativity, maintain focus on your breathing and feel yourself become more present with each inhale and exhale cycle. How long? There are two techniques I’d recommend and you can implement them immediately. Practice and time are your allies and so the more you do it the more effective it will become, potentially replacing your habitual coping mechanisms.
The minimum amount of time you should be practicing is two minutes, that’s tough in those momentary stressful situations and so at least bringing your focus to your breathing momentarily can help, but six quality deep breaths make significant changes to ones psychology and physiology and this equates to about two minutes. This technique can be applied in all stressful situations, multiple times throughout your day to activate your storm/calm response.
For longer periods and to practice meditation for calm that can help at the beginning of your day or at the end of a tough day, repeat your deep belly breathing cycles for a minimum of 5 minutes and with no real maximum time. Correct mechanics, long deep inhalation and exhalation and drawing yourself back to the present is key.
If you have trouble winding down at the end of the day or with sleeping after a hectic day you can also try this technique while laying in bed. Don't set a time limit, just breathe consciously, focus on nothing but the rhythm of your breath until you drift off.
And that’s really all there is to it. As I said practice and time are your allies so why not start straight away on your journey to mindfulness and quiet life’s storm.
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