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Hopefully by now, you are developing a deeper connection with your breath, and finding more peace and calm in your day, week, month. However, if you are still finding this to be a bit challenging, I have a handy list of five EASY ways that you can enhance your breathwork practice, and connect more deeply with this amazing and FREE tool that you have available to you.
Breathing is one of THE BEST tools we have for accessing regulation and an overall sense of grounding.
We are living in some high stress times, and while stress can be a useful tool in times of serious threat, its not a useful experience to have on the daily. Our Autonomic Nervous System is broken down into two sub-parts: Sympathetic (fight/flight) and Parasympathetic (rest and recovery), both being extremely important to our health, safety, and well being. However, as you can imagine, our sympathetic nervous system should not be activated all that often, but instead reserved for the times we truly need it. Unfortunately, the consequence of living in repeated cycles of high activation means: hyper-production of cortisol (stress hormone), feeling on edge or unsafe, slowing down of immune system and digestion, fatigue, and the list goes on. Basically, living in constant fight/flight is like having a broken fire alarm...not effective in detecting true danger, and outright annoying.
The good news, you have a free resource available to you at all times, that research shows can help to activate parasympathetic functioning, leading to increased sense of rest and repair. If you don't believe me, try it out for yourself.
Here are a few ideas to get you going:
1. Counting your breaths
-Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes or soften your gaze, whatever feels safe to you
-Begin to gently bring your attention to your breath, deepening and lengthening each inhale and exhale
-Once you feel you are in a good rhythm, begin to count each inhale/exhale cycle. Set a goal for yourself, maybe its to complete 5 deep, mindful breaths? Maybe you shoot for 5...whatever the case may be, just focus in and focus only on the sensation of the inhale and exhale cycle.
-When you get to your desired count, gently open your eyes and continue about your day in a more peaceful state
2. Taking a mindful walk in nature:
-Get outside, in a a safe area of your choosing, and begin to notice your senses as they become acclimated to the environment around you. Notice the wind on your face, the sound of birds chirping, or maybe the cars going by. Feel your feet on the earth, and how your feet feel as they move with each step.
-Begin to match the movement of your breath with the steps that you take. Maybe you play around with depth and speed of the breath, depending on how quickly you move. There is no wrong way to do this....we are just noticing, tuning in, and getting information!
3. Draw your Breath:
-Grab something to write with, and something to write on.
-Begin to draw your breath, as it is, without changing, using whatever marks make sense to you on the page. When you are finished, set this drawing to the side.
-Grab a new surface to write on, and you will complete the same exercise, only this time you will actively deepen your breath.
-When you have completed the second drawing, pull out the first one. What do you notice? Any interesting changes in the marks you made?
4. Use an app!
I think meditation, mindfulness, breathing, etc can be so intimidating because there may be the belief that you have to empty your mind, and turn into Buddha. However, that's not really the case at all. The objective is not to be thoughtless, its really just to tune into your own body and listen. Its the practice of being able to notice thoughts as they come, and let them pass through without attachment.
With that said, it can still be super hard to engage in such activities without a bit of guidance. This is where phone applications are an amazing tool.
My personal favorite is "Stop, Breathe, Think"---its totally free, and has so many wonderful options for starting your meditation/breathing practice.
5. Ask a friend to join in!
Aren't things so much fun when you do it with friends? It can be extremely powerful to engage in mindful activities with friends and loved ones, and wouldn't the world be such a better place if we were spending more time engaging in unplugged, mindful activities more often??