MINDFUL UNION: FOR THE LOVE OF THE BREATH
The concept of Marriage is no longer a one-size fit all approach. It has evolved into different forms beyond the most traditional form which is when a man or women or two people of the same sex under legal jurisdiction become one. One can be married to their job, hobby, or anything else that simultaneously completes and consumes their existence. Hypothetical speaking, as a society the concept of marriage is something that is tied to the outside world which include people, statuses, things, and events. Paradoxically, the whole idea should start within and that is the marriage of the mind and body!
The breath to the mind and body is a lot like the engine is to a car. If the engine is not running properly for a car, then car can’t operate smoothly. When our breath is forced, constricted, rapid and short we often find ourselves agitated, upset or anxious, whereas when our breath is long and deep, our state is calmness. The breath is really the driving force of how we feel and move through the world.
I have learned that the breath is one of the best natural ways to bring peace and calmness to the mind. Through yoga and practicing breathing techniques I have reached the conclusion that the rate of our breath gives us the ability to exert control over our powerful thoughts, feelings, behavior, and make choices that suit our needs and desires to create the life that we ultimately want. If one is constantly lost, confused, depressed, angry, nervous, or looking elsewhere to numb their inner feelings they are running from the most important connection one can have in this lifetime and that’s the union with the mind and body.
Although I have been a yogi since the age of 23, I never quite understood the meaning of the breath and the role it plays in lighting one’s internal fire. I discovered the concept of the breath through my first yoga class. I came to yoga initially as a solution to alleviate and get rid of my anxiety.
It seems as if it was yesterday that I was attending my first yoga class from the unusual chatting of Ohms to the constant emphasis on exhaling and inhaling, to a sequence that seemed to follow the pace of a snail in comparison to normal cardio classes, to frequent holding of different poses, and of course the unusual ending of Shavasana that didn’t resonate with me back then, but today I just melt into complete bliss!
Over the past four years the meaning of the breath and practicing yoga has changed my life. It has given me a whole new sense of self and gratitude for life. It was through the breath I have been able to tap into my creative side giving me the ability to finally carve out my dreams of being a writer, actress, stylist, and entrepreneur in the Big Apple! From a very young age I had a burning desire to have a career in the field of performing arts or the field of art and design. I have always loved classes like improv, acting, cooking, writing, and arts and crafts, however as I got older I got sucked into societal norms and as a result I buried my creative passions in a dark deep hole for many years, shifting the focus on playing the conventional role of the everyday Jane! The role of going to college to receive a degree, entering a safe 9-5 job, and for others not myself the role of getting married and starting a family. This role of the everyday “Joe and Jane” are the everyday fairtale stories that are played out by our media, peers, and environment. In spite of this, I believe the more one practices yoga and deep breathing to fine tune the mind body connection, the outcomes would be less conventional and yield a greater sense of happiness and positive sense of self for most.
Throughout the journey of my life until up to three years ago, I never once followed my instincts and true passion in life, which have always been becoming an entrepreneur in the world of arts and innovation. I have always loved fashion, tv, media, writing, acting, designing and the idea of being an innovator in business. For years I worked in corporate America juggling different jobs from a retail manager, to a make-up artist to business to business sales, to working in a marketing department and always ending the day feeling incomplete, empty, and unfulfilled both intellectually, and spiritually. A piece of my soul seemed to be missing ultimately making me depressed and not motivated with where I was going in life and what I had set out to accomplish. I literally thought going to work was like a prison sentence and I couldn’t wait until the clock turned five thirty so I could dart out the door and escape through the gym. It wasn’t until I started truly tapping into my life and assessing my mind and body connection that I began to discover what truly set my soul on fire.
I started to tap into this inner fire by practicing techniques of deep breathing and meditation, and from then on I was able remove this imaginary fake picture hanging from my visionary wall of goals by tightening the gap between who I was presently and what I really wanted to become in the future. Those closest to me throughout the years have always known I had this burning desire to be an entrepreneur in the field of creative arts, but like a scared baby learning to walk without help I was always held back by my fear of possibly falling down, and having to pick myself up again and again with no help. I was too scared to step out on the” ledge of the unknown” by myself knowing I was surrendering all control, comfort, and of course expectations in order to pursue a lifelong dream. This idea of possibly dealing with setbacks, unpredictability, and constant change used to frighten me and paralyze me, however it was through my constant practice, determination, and applying breathing techniques daily which have allowed me to tap into my emotions and leverage them in a positive and most effective way for me to carve out the career and life I dream of. I constantly use my breath as a compass to guide me in the right direction in making better life decisions that complement my well being and bring daily Zen and happiness into my life. That’s why I’m sharing some basic breathing techniques I have found online through various sources to be the most useful for my life and believe they can help you unravel the deep layers of the distance from who you are presently to what you want to become. Read on how to exhale and inhale to the land of Zen…
Please note below This is taken directly from http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/healing-breath/
“This gentle introduction to diaphragmatic breathing teaches you how to breathe more fully and consciously.
Quiets and calms the entire nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety and improving self-awareness.
At least once a day, at any time.
Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Place a palm on your abdomen and breathe comfortably for a few moments, noticing the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense? strained? uneven? shallow? Simply observe the breath without any judgment. Then gradually begin to make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible, introducing a slight pause after each inbreath and outbreath.
Once the breath feels relaxed and comfortable, notice the movement of the body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands; as you exhale, feel the slight contraction of the abdomen. In a gentle way, try to actively expand the abdomen on the inhale and contract the abdomen on the exhale to support the natural movement of the diaphragm and experience the pleasure of giving yourself a full, relaxed breath. Continue the practice for 6 to 12 breaths.”
This is taken directly from the (http://www.chopra.com/ccl/breathing-for-life-the-mind-body-healing-benefits-of-pranayama)
Deep Breathing Techniques
“Complete Belly Breath: With one hand on your belly, relax your abdominal muscles, and slowly inhale through the nose, bringing air into the bottom of your lungs. You should feel your abdomen rise. This expands the lower parts of the lungs. Continue to inhale as your rib cage expands outward, and finally, the collar bones rise. At the peak of the inhalation, pause for a moment, then exhale gently from the top of your lungs to the bottom. At the end of exhalation, contract your abdominal muscles slightly to push residual air out of the bottom of your lungs.
Alternate Nostril Breathing: When you are feeling anxious or ungrounded, practice Alternate Nostril Breathing, known as Nadi Shodhana in the yogic tradition. This will immediately help you feel calmer.
Hold your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril.At the peak of your inhalation, close off your left nostril with your fourth finger, lift your right thumb, and then exhale smoothly through your right nostril.
After a full exhalation, inhale through the right nostril, closing it off with your right thumb at the peak of your inhalation, lift your fourth finger and exhale smoothly through your left nostril.
Continue with this practice for 3 to 5 minutes, alternating your breathing through each nostril. Your breathing should be effortless, with your mind gently observing the inflow and outflow of breath.
Ocean’s Breath: When you feel angry, irritated, or frustrated, try a cooling pranayama such as Ocean’s Breath, or Ujjayi (pronounced oo-jai). This will immediately soothe and settle your mind.
Take an inhalation that is slightly deeper than normal. With your mouth closed, exhale through your nose while constricting your throat muscles. If you are doing this correctly, you should sound like waves on the ocean.
Another way to get the hang of this practice is to try exhaling the sound “haaaaah” with your mouth open. Now make a similar sound with your mouth closed, feeling the outflow of air through your nasal passages.
Once you have mastered this on the outflow, use the same method for the inflow breath, gently constricting your throat as you inhale.
Energizing Breath: When you are feeling blue or sluggish, try Energizing Breath or Bhastrika. This will give you an immediate surge of energy and invigorate your mind. Begin by relaxing your shoulders and take a few deep, full breaths from your abdomen.Now start exhaling forcefully through your nose, followed by forceful, deep inhalations at the rate of one second per cycle. Your breathing is entirely from your diaphragm, keeping your head, neck, shoulders, and chest relatively still while your belly moves in and out. Start by doing a round of ten breaths, then breathe naturally and notice the sensations in your body. After 15 to 30 seconds, begin the next round with 20 breaths. Finally, after pausing for another 30 seconds, complete a third round of 30 breaths. Beginners are advised to take a break between rounds.Although Bhastrika is a safe practice, stay tuned in to your body during the process. If you feel light-headed or very uncomfortable, stop for a few moments before resuming in a less intense manner.
Contraindications: Do not practice Bhastrika if you are pregnant or have uncontrolled hypertension, epilepsy/seizures, panic disorder, hernia, gastric ulcer, glaucoma, or vertigo. Use caution if there is an underlying lung disease. “